Martin Wesley-Smith's
2009
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an incomplete and opinionated ramble through miscellaneous events, performances etc of 2009 ...

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* Thursday December 31 2009:

Have been busy of late, what with Christmas and all. My Mum, Sheila, is back home from hospital after her most recent heart attack, much weaker than before and needing a higher level of care. What little time there has been for the internet has largely been consumed by the blog that regularly updates her friends and family on the state of her health ...

* I recently received a request from a new vocal group for a copy of my a cappella vocal piece Several Australian Conservation Songs. I emailed back a couple of the songs: Billiards (or The Elderly Elephant) and Freddie the Fish, receiving this response: "... we're probably going to be erring towards a more serious palette than these pieces suggest. They look fun, just probably not what the group's going to be interested in pursuing." Fair enough. Each to her own. But these songs, which are concerned with urgent conservation issues, are as "serious" as any piece I've ever done. I suspect that they were rejected because their musical idiom is not regarded as "serious" i.e. it's tonal, with hummable melodies. It seems to me that the choice of idiom is pertinent to the effectiveness of the communication. In these cases, where communication of the words and their meaning is the most important thing, I thought that wrapping powerful lyrics within beguiling pieces of music might have the desired effect.

Check out Billiards here.

A review of the film Avatar by commentator and musician Gilad Atzmon concludes:

I would maintain that to stand up against your own people for an ethical cause is the real meaning of humanism and liberty. Yet, it is pretty astonishing that such an inspiring message is delivered by Hollywood. We may have to admit, once again, that it is the artist and creative mind (rather than the politician) who is there to shape our reality and present a prospect of a better amicable future by the means of aesthetics.

If the film's director, James Cameron, wanted to get his message across to as many people as possible, then one way was to choose an idiom that most people were familiar with and enjoyed. This is not to say that a new unfamiliar idiom would not have been as effective - perhaps even more so - as the blockbuster action format that I gather the film employs (I haven't yet seen it), but I assume that the high cost of a major Hollywood film discourages experimentation in idiom. Judging from the reaction to the film, it successfully conveys a message that is far more important to humanity than any argument about any filmic aspect. I don't discourage a vocal group from wanting to explore a particular idiom, say - far from it - but I reject the notion that a conventional idiom is necessarily not "serious".

* Once again, John Pilger tells it how it is, this time in relation to Afghanistan, in Welcome to Orwell's World 2010. And David Michael Green, in an article called Well, That Sure Sucked: Good Riddance To The Devil's Decade, looks back at the past decade in American politics and hopes that the next one will be better. An excerpt:

There is no meaningful difference - in law, morality, politics, culture or civilization - between Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq. The only divergence between the two acts of pure aggression is that when the hegemon does it, there's no one around to block or punish the crime ... History will (also) record this as the decade when the evidence for global warming became so compelling that even George Bush endorsed it. And then we did nothing ... Of course there are myriad further tales of woe to be told. After all, this was the decade in which the thirty year assault of radical regressivism came to full fruition, and was there for people to observe in all its glory. The damages have been incalculable, and I haven't even gotten to Sarah Palin yet.

If there was one bright spot, it was the seeming recognition by the American public that this full glory of regressive politics was a fairly horrifying prospect to behold, once stripped by a sufficient dose of reality immersion to reveal the truth behind the marketing slogans. Americans seemed to finally come to their senses just a bit, and decide that the thirteenth century was best left in the history books, after all.

But then along came Barack Obama to provide the fitting end to it all. Crushing any sense of possible recovery or redemption (and even his own presidency) on the altar of perpetual obedience to corporate predation, he has now made the decade complete in every way. Not only has he abandoned any meaningful solutions for the multiple crises he inherited, he has absolved by silence the folks who produced those very catastrophes. No, strike that. He has more than absolved them, he has revivified them.

[more]

May the second decade of the 21st century be a lot better than the first. My best wishes to all.


* Saturday December 19 2009:

An article of mine - about choral music, with particular attention to my 1979 piece Who Killed Cock Robin? - has been published on-line by The Australian Music Centre. To read it, click here.


* Tuesday December 15 2009:

Last weekend The Thirsty Night Singers premiered Songs of the Dispossessed - words by Peter Wesley-Smith, music by me - in concerts in Canberra and Yass (the David Pereira Cello Series 2009). From my point of view - from my point of hearing - the performances went pretty well. I will now tidy up the piece a bit and put it out there.

While I was away our dog, Flash, was bitten by a snake. He was rushed to hospital and given anti-venom, which seems to have done the trick 'cos he has now largely recovered. We're told, however, that he might have sustained some liver damage.


* Tuesday December 8 2009:

In the early hours of this morning my 93-year-old Mum, Sheila, had another mild heart attack (she had one back in July), and is now in Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital in Nowra. She's tenaciously hanging on to life, although she's at peace with the world and ready to move on. Updates are being published on the Sheila blog.

* On Friday December 18 The Song Company will be doing its Christmas concert, which includes "modern gems from Australian composer Martin Wesley-Smith", in Newcastle, New South Wales. For details, click here.

A friend of mine heard the program somewhere else. She wrote:

Went to hear Song Co yesterday.... absolutely LOVEd "The Elderly Elephant" of yours... I'd never heard it before. Typical you. A real punch that comes unsuspecting in a velvet glove... So great to experience though. I liked them all... but that one in particular.

The Elderly Elephant (also called Billiards) is one of Peter's and my Conservation Songs.

* From Great Cello Recital in The Grenfell Record (New South Wales), December 2 2009:

The distinguished cellist DAVID PEREIRA returned to Grenfell to present another recital for Grenfell Music Club on Sunday November 29 ...

The remaining three pieces were by Australian composers Ross Edwards, Martin Wesley-Smith and Carl Vine - all accompanied by prerecorded sounds on CD. These sounds ranged from effects such as running water to amazing sea-gull effects on cello. This music was amongst the most progressive material presented at any Grenfell Music Club concert but the musical effects were always interesting and often very beautiful.

My piece: Welcome to the Hotel Turismo, for cello & CD (2000), which is about the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, 1975-1999.

* If you are into things Snarkish, check out this website by Mahendra Singh, in Montreal, Quebec, an "illustrator busily fitting Lewis Carroll into a protosurrealist straitjacket with matching dada cufflinks".


* Friday December 4 2009:

The latest on-line article - Meet the Commanded-in-Chief or Victory at Last! Monty Python in Afghanistan - by American pundit Tom Engelhardt, publisher of TomDispatch.com), contains this:

... the Iraq War has yet to begin to go away, the Afghan War is being escalated in a major way, the Middle East is in some turmoil, Guantanamo remains open, black sites are still operating in Afghanistan, the Pentagon's budget has grown yet larger, and supplemental demands on Congress for yet more money to pay for George W. Bush's wars will, despite promises otherwise, soon enough be made.

[more]

As I see it, Nobel Peace Prize-winning U.S. President Obama has so far proved to be a profound disappointment. Such hope! Such a blow when that hope was dashed ...

from an excellent article called A Death Warrant for the Future, by Chris Floyd:

December 2, 2009 - And now it is here. The new "surge" in Afghanistan is underway - the second surge launched by the progressive president in his first year in office. Barack Obama's speech, and the policies embraced in it, and the sinister implications underlying it, are all abysmally awful. They are a death warrant not only for the thousands of Afghan and Pakistani civilians who will be killed in the intensified conflict, but also for the countless thousands of innocent s yet to die in the coming generations of a world roiled and destabilized by an out-of-control empire... In the speech, and the PR seeding that surrounded it, Obama and his mouthpieces stress the "success" of the Bush Regime's "surge" in Iraq as an encouraging model for the escalation in Afghanistan. Putting aside the fact that Obama already launched a surge in Afghanistan earlier this year that was just as big as Bush's escalation in Iraq but has proved such a singular failure that he is now launching an even bigger surge, the truth is that the Iraq "surge" had almost nothing to do with the abatement of horrific violence in that conquered land. As we have noted here very often, the "surge" was in fact the final act of a protracted civil war, in which the United States actively abetted the vast ethnic cleansing of Sunni Muslims on behalf of the extremist Shiite parties empowered by the American invasion ...

[more]

It has been claimed, by Obama's National Security Adviser General James Jones, that there are "fewer than a hundred al Qaeda in Afghanistan". Thus Obama's new surge will mean that one al Qaeda fighter equates to one thousand U.S. soldiers and $300 million (see here).

Meanwhile, America's lap-dog Australia continues to contribute to this empire-building in a country that has been called the graveyard of empires.


* Thursday December 3 2009:

Australian composer Katia Tiutiunnik, who was a student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music when I taught there in the 90s, has written a book called The Symbolic Dimension: An Exploration of the Compositional Process, which I went to Amazon.com to buy (it's not, as far as I know, available locally). It's a paperback, but its price is a whopping USD118 - far too much for a poor old composer like me! I'm now gunna hope it's in my Christmas stocking when I wake up on Dec 25.

* It never rains but it pours: at 7.30pm on Friday Dec 11, in Canberra, two concerts will each include music of mine: 1. the first performance of Songs of the Dispossessed by David Pereira and friends, Wesley Music Centre, 20 National Circuit, Forrest (click here for details); and 2. animal songs of mine on A Free Range Christmas, presented by The Song Company.


* Wednesday December 2 2009:

A good article in yesterday's Information Clearing House email newsletter: Iraq: The War Was Illegal, by Brian Brady. This originally appeared in Britain's The Independent newspaper, November 29 2009. It claims that "then Attorney General Goldsmith was 'pinned to the wall and bullied into keeping quiet' while the (then) Prime Minister (Tony Blair) kept the Cabinet in the dark":

The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war will consider a letter from Lord Goldsmith, then Mr Blair's top law officer, advising him that deposing Saddam would be in breach of international law, according to a report in The Mail on Sunday.

But Mr Blair refused to accept Lord Goldsmith's advice and instead issued instructions for his long-term friend to be "gagged" and barred from cabinet meetings, the newspaper claimed. Lord Goldsmith apparently lost three stone, and complained he was "more or less pinned to the wall" in a No 10 showdown with two of Mr Blair's most loyal aides, Lord Falconer and Baroness Morgan. Mr Blair also allegedly failed to inform the Cabinet of the warning, fearing an "anti-war revolt".

Lord Goldsmith allegedly threatened to resign over the issue, but was "bullied" into backing down. He eventually issued carefully drafted qualified backing for the invasion.

[more]

Apparently poor Mr Blair is upset that some of the evidence given so far has been potentially damaging to his reputation:

"It is clear that the headlines so far have not been helpful to him," a former minister said. "But more troubling is the sense that some of the people involved are so keen to stick the knife in. It is quite distasteful."

An ICH reader called Cheshire Cat - comments:

Isn't that just so typically 'colonial' British? 1.5 million slaughtered. 5 million children orphaned. 4-5 million stateless. and sticking the knife in against one of the instigators is 'distasteful.' No wonder Britian is f*cked.

David Hannaford writes:

Goldsmith's modified legal advice was also used by Australia's ruling class to justify Australian involvement in the war. This, and the many other examples of the Anglo nations reading from the same script supplied via the same international media, points to the wider conspiracy. If we are content with the ritual sacrifice of Blair alone, we are being diverted from the greater culprits.

Molly writes:

Greenstock: the war was "unlikely to be proved illegal". Huh? On what basis could it NOT be illegal? Regime change isn't permitted in international law, humanitarian intervention doesn't fly, pre-emptive self-defence could never get up, there was no express UN authorisation, and the balls-aching "implied authorisation" argument never persuaded anyone except warmongers and arms manufacturers. In my view it IS relevant that the invasion was illegal: it means people like Bush and Blair and Howard are war criminals and one day might be held to account - which might seem a long shot, but already former politicians vulnerable to war crimes charges, like Henry Kissinger, are reportedly very cautious about overseas travel for fear of being arrested and dealt with by national courts exercising universal jurisdiction.

Bush, Blair, Howard etc are responsible for far more deaths than Saddam was. I'm opposed to capital punishment, but I think I would be prepared to make an exception in the case of these three blatant liars. Joe writes: "my wish is to see war criminal(s) bush blair and co. hang like they did to saddam."

* Yesterday's deposing of Australian Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull causes one to shake one's head in disbelief. Turnbull is the only sitting member of the Coalition with even half a brain, and is a strong supporter of the need to take positive action, urgently, on climate change. His replacement, ex-Health Minister Tony Abbott, will surely bring further electoral disaster to the conservative side of Australian politics.

On Tuesday February 8 2005 my grandson, Bassy, was mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald's Column 8:

When Sebastian Wesley-Smith, 4, of Stanmore, overheard a discussion on ABC Radio 702 in which Health Minister Tony Abbott was mentioned, he gleefully remarked: "A tiny rabbit. How cute."

* Andrew Ford's eulogy for composer Richard Meale can be read here.


* Saturday November 28 2009:

Cellist Rachel Scott has put a couple of things of mine onto her myspace site: Intervention 1, with soprano Nicole Thomson, and Andy's Gone with Cattle Now. To go to the site, click here. Rachel and flautist Sally Walker recently performed an instrumental version of Intervention 1 - the piece that critic Geoffrey Gartner described as "nothing more than an academic counterpoint exercise" (see here) - on a concert they gave for the Robertson Village Music Society at St John's Christian Centre, Meryla St, Robertson.


* Tuesday November 24 2009:

If you're gonna be in Sydney this coming Friday November 27, go see the film Forgotten Bird of Paradise, 7.30pm, Uniting Church Hall, 37 St John's Rd Glebe. The film was directed, filmed (inside West Papua, secretly), and produced by Dominic Brown [U.K.]. This is the first and currently only scheduled showing in full in Australia.

Before that, at 1.15pm on Friday, Richard Meale's funeral will be held in the Northern Chapel, Northern Suburbs Crematorium, Sydney.


* Monday November 23 2009:

Outstanding Australian composer Richard Meale died this morning, aged 77. He was a pianist, and conductor, and the supervisor of my master's degree at the University of Adelaide.

Later:
from an article by Joyce Morgan and Bryce Hallett called Celebrated composer embraced the world in The Sydney Morning Herald, November 24 2009:

AUSTRALIA has lost one of its finest composers with the death of Richard Meale, whose music embraced both Western avant-garde and Asian classical music.

"He changed the face of Australian music," said the composer Peter Sculthorpe. "In the 1960s, more than anyone he made Australia aware of the music of Europe that was being written at that time." [more]

To read an interview by Andrew Ford with Richard on his 70th birthday (January 25 2003), click here.

Richard is the second of my composition teachers to die this year, the first being Peter Tahourdin, who moved on in July.

* I'm a fan of musician and writer Gilad Atzmon. In his latest article, As the Light onto the Nations, published in yesterday's Information Clearing House, he writes:

The Jerusalem post reported yesterday that the Chairman of NATO's Military Committee, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, visited Israel earlier this week to study "IDF tactics and methods that the military alliance can utilise for its war in Afghanistan." A senior Israeli defence official added "The one thing on NATO's mind today is how to win in Afghanistan ... Di Paola was very impressed by the IDF, which is a major source of information due to our operational experience."

I would advise both the Israeli official and Admiral Di Paola to slightly curb their enthusiasm. The IDF didn't win a single war since 1967. Yes, it murdered many civilians, it flattened many cities, it starved millions, it has been committing war crimes on a daily basis for decades and yet, it didn't win a war. Thus, the IDF cannot really teach NATO how to win in Afghanistan. If NATO generals are stupid enough to follow IDF tactics, like the Israeli generals, they will start to see the charges of war crimes pile up against them. They may even be lucky enough to share their cells with some Israelis in due course, once justice is performed.

[more]

* On the domestic front, we've recently installed a 75,000 litre water tank to provide water [a] for the garden, and [b] to help protect the house should we find ourselves threatened by a bushfire. The bushfire season has started already, with fierce heat, high winds and low humidity contributing to many fires across New South Wales, including one the other day at Upper Kangaroo River. We are in an area of, mainly, rainforest that is generally resistant to fire. But in extreme conditions, no-one's safe, hence the need to do what we can to protect ourselves.

* I've come across an article about my work as a composer in Wikipedia. To read it, click here.

* Last Saturday night I went to see a production of Alex Buzo's classic play Norm & Ahmed in the Pavilion in Kiama: excellent performances by Laurence Coy and Craig Meneaud in a work that is still powerful even though in some ways it has dated since it was first performed in, I think, the 70s. It's to do with the intolerance and violence not far below the surface of many Australians. It was a production by The Alex Buzo Company (Aarne Neeme, director; Emma Buzo, producer; Steve Holland/Robert Nixon, lighting & sound). On the same bill: The Stones, devised and performed by Tom Lycos and Stefan Nantsou. This was an ingenious tour de force: very theatrical, and at times very funny, yet posing difficult questions about juvenile justice. The capacity audience gave the performers a standing ovation. A Zeal Theatre production. Both plays were presented in association with Christ Church Kiama.


* Sunday November 15 2009:

On November 6, Australian journalist John Pilger was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize. In his acceptance speech at the Sydney Opera House, he described the "unique features" of political silence in Australia: how it affects the way Australians see the world and are manipulated by great power "which speaks through an invisible government of propaganda that subdues and limits our political imagination and ensures we are always at war - against our own first people and those seeking refuge, or in someone else's country". To read the speech, click here.

* For those who know my old Mum, Sheila, who is 93 with a dicky heart, I am regularly publishing updates re her health on the Sheila blog. As a result of a heart attack a few months ago, she now has a weakened heart and consequent lethargy and breathlessness. But she's being well looked-after here, is comfortable, and mostly enjoys life despite frustration at not being able to work in the kitchen or the garden.


* Monday November 09 2009:

When the United Nations establishes a fact-finding mission on the recent conflict in Gaza, it is conducted by "one of the world's most widely respected jurists (Judge Richard Goldstone), with an impeccable record of wisdom, honesty and integrity ... a devout Jew (who) has long been known as a fervent defender of Israel's right to peace and security" (Jimmy Carter), it issues a report claiming that both sides are guilty of crimes against humanity, and my country votes against referring this report to the Security Council, I conclude that [a] there is no hope for justice, peace, truth or rational debate in this world, and [b] Australia's Labor Government, and its Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, are little better than the conservatives they replaced. If the report you commission doesn't say what you want it to say, suppress it, calling its author a self-hating Jew. Toady up to the United States, which also voted against the resolution. Then stand back and do nothing to help the Gazans as they face another winter in their devastated cities. Carter writes:

"... the punishment of the 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza continues. Now and for the past 10 months, Israel has not permitted cement, lumber, panes of glass, or other building materials to pass their entry points into Gaza. Several hundred thousand homeless people suffered through last winter in a few tents, under plastic sheets, or huddled in caves dug into the debris of their former homes ... The cries of homeless and freezing people demand relief ... [more]

Who are the terrorists here?

In an article titled The Evil Empire, Paul Craig Roberts writes:

Obama's credibility is shot. And so is Congress's, assuming it ever had any. The US House of Representatives has just voted to show the entire world that the US House of Representatives is nothing but the servile, venal, puppet of the Israel Lobby. The House of Representatives of the American "superpower" did the bidding of its master, AIPAC, and voted 344 to 36 to condemn the Goldstone Report ... [more]

The Goldstone Report is on the table. Why not discuss it? If the Australian government has evidence that casts doubt on the report then let's see it. Is there any reason to believe that Goldstone might have fabricated evidence in order to make false accusations against Israelis? Let's discuss, openly and honestly - how else will peace ever be achieved in the Middle East?


* Sunday November 08 2009:

Yesterday's Mass "to pray for all Timorese dead, and for the Australian soldiers who served and died in Timor and those who have died since" at the Mary MacKillop Chapel in North Sydney went well, apparently (I couldn't be there). Cellist Rachel Scott said that her and soprano Nicole Thomson's performance of The Fighters Who Fell "went down incredibly well ..." Someone else wrote: "Nicole Thomson and Rachel Scott did wonderful justice to your fine piece ... It was very moving really, two fine musicians presenting a most evocative piece, honouring the Timorese (and the Australians) with such fine poetry and music." A new arrangement of that song is being included in my Songs of the Dispossessed, a piece for choir and cello that will be performed in Canberra next month.

* Last night I went to see some local kids' theatre: Jabberwock, a play written, directed and designed by Sarah Butler. The stars of the show included Indy Nutter, Sophie McGregor, Candice McGregor, Jessie Stapleton, Danny Thomas, Maxwell Warren and Samantha Warren. I know how much work goes into a show like that. And one could see on the kids' faces how much benefit, and fun, they derived from it. In fact they will probably remember it for the rest of their lives, with some being inspired to develop their creative impulses to a much higher level, as a result, as they grow up. Sarah's stone will set off ripples that will be felt for many years hence.


* Tuesday November 03 2009:

In Sunday night's 60 Minutes, Teuku Faizasyah, a spokesman for Indonesia, and reporter Liam Bartlett were discussing the Balibo Five:

TF: Our understanding of the issues is that they were killed during the crossfire, so that's our understanding and that's, ah ...

LB: And if you were wrong?

TF: Well...

LB: That means an Indonesian, one of your countrymen, is a murderer.

TF: War is war. To be killed in the crossfire in the line of war, it's a risk that anyone can happen. It's...

LB: War is not war, sir, when those men were killed walking down the middle of the street with their hands in the air.

TF: That's the understanding of your side.

My understanding is that if you declare war then war conditions apply. But Indonesia sent a clandestine force to invade East Timor without declaring war, pretending that the invaders were disaffected Timorese. Therefore war conditions do not apply, and Indonesia cannot get away with lamely repeating the mantra that bad things happen during wars. But even during war, the Geneva Conventions state that journalists and other non-combatants must not be targets - hence Indonesia's "killed in crossfire" lie despite ample evidence to the contrary.

The reason that the journalists were there was to expose the truth; the point of killing them was to stop the the truth getting out. Many people, including Australia's ambassador at the time, Richard Woolcott, play "blame the victim" by saying that the journalists should not have been there. But without journalists covering hot spots, how will we discover the truth? And without that, how can we make good foreign policy?

If all this had been properly investigated at the time, perhaps Indonesia would have been dissuaded from its full-scale invasion in December 1975, and over 200,000 East Timorese lives would not have been sacrificed. After decades of international appeasement, the Indonesian army, knowing that it can pillage, rape and murder with impunity, runs rampant in places like West Papua. "Terrorists in uniform", to quote Sister Susan Connelly RSJ, who sent the following email today:

Dear Friends, with apologies to those far away,
Just a reminder about the Mass to pray for all Timorese dead, and for the Australian soldiers who served and died in Timor and those who have died since.
Date: Saturday Nov 7th
Time: 10:30 am
Place: Mary MacKillop Chapel, Mount Street, North Sydney
Celebrant: Bishop David Cremin
At the Thanksgiving, The Fighters Who Fell will be peformed by Nicole Thomson (soprano) and Rachel Scott (cello). It is the poem by Xanana Gusmao, translated by Agio Pereira and Rob Wesley-Smith, poeticised by Peter Wesley-Smith. The music is based on (the East Timorese folk song) Kolele Mai, arranged by Martin Wesley-Smith.
The special candle for the event has been made by Gwen Daly.

Best wishes to all,
Sister Susan Connelly RSJ
Mary MacKillop East Timor Mission

What's needed, of course, is justice for all who have died in Timor since 1975 as a result of Indonesia's illegal invasion.


* Sunday November 01 2009:

music and politics 1:

Yesterday's Music Show on ABC Radio National had an on-air discussion, between Andrew Ford and Rob Murray, of my new Tall Poppies CD Merry-Go-Round. You can listen to the discussion, or download an mp3 of it, here (the discussion of my CD starts about half-way through). Note that the website says that after the broadcast date The Music Show keeps audio online for four weeks only.

Here's part of an edited transcript:

RM: "I enjoyed this music. I especially like Snark-Hunting. I'm not sure about the political - I'm not sure what place politics has in music, and Martin Wesley-Smith is a very political composer"

AF: "Not in Snark-Hunting"

RM: "Not in Snark-Hunting, but in the other pieces on this ..."

AF: "Especially Merry-Go-Round"

RM: "Merry-Go-Round, which is about Afghanistan .... Stravinsky chose subjects which ideally had no human interest whatsoever, but Martin Wesley-Smith is the opposite: his music abounds in human interest. Sometimes it seems a little bit earnest to me ... I suppose ... that's a terrible thing to say ..."

AF: "It's funny that you say that because the thing that strikes me about Martin Wesley-Smith's political pieces is that he only manages to keep up the earnestness for a certain amount of time before he makes a joke. There are always elements of ... entertainment and fun and something is suddenly turned upside-down and a rabbit is pulled out of a hat, as though he can't help himself, and I find that endearing, I must say, particularly where he's really trying to be serious."

RM: "Yeah, a lot of his pieces are very high-minded indeed, I mean, the series he's done about East Timor especially, and, you know, I think it's very important to make art about those subjects. Whether or not it's something I would want to go and see in a concert and, you know, could whole-heartedly enjoy, I don't know I ..."

AF: "But of course you can listen to the music, particularly on this CD, and you don't have to think about Lewis Carroll, for instance, in the case of Snark-Hunting. But - I think I must've been at the first performance of Snark-Hunting. I certainly heard it played in 1984 by Flederman and it seems that it was composed in 1984 so I guess that was the first time it was performed ... and I remember thinking - I'd just got off the boat from England, and I'd never heard anything like this guy's music, and I was terribly impressed by it because it was so original, and, also, listening to it now, it's so deft ..."

[more (audio)]

I don't think that art is something one necessarily must "whole-heartedly enjoy". In fact it's a bit difficult to imagine anyone whole-heartedly enjoying anything about the situation in East Timor between 1975 and 1999, or about the current situation in Afghanistan, Burma, Gaza, West Papua, Sudan etc etc. But one can be profoundly moved, a far more powerful emotion than whole-heartedly enjoying something. While art can come from anywhere at all, much "good art" (however one defines that) comes from an inner conviction, or a strong emotion, or a fascination with something, be it of "human interest" or not. If it's uncomfortable for its audience, and people like Rob Murray stay away as a consequence, that's the way it has to be. The alternative is self-censorship, which for art is devastating.

I suspect that Australian composer and clarinettist Paul Dean might also wonder about the implication that art should be something one should necessarily "whole-heartedly enjoy":

* music and politics 2:

The savage politics of asylum seekers are once again striding across the Australian landscape, with Prime Minister Rudd determined to be just as tough as his predecessor Howard. A tragedy of the recent past was the sinking, in 2001, of the boat dubbed the SIEV X, resulting in the deaths of 353 asylum seekers en route to Australia in a dilapidated Indonesian fishing boat. Mr Dean has written a piece about it:

Titled Abyss, (a) haunting piece in five movements titled Promise, Leaving, Panic, Loss and Silence, it evokes the hopelessness of the asylum seekers' plight, the panic as the boat starts sinking, the water rushing and then the despair of what Dean calls "all these doomed souls".
Dean felt the tragedy of the asylum seekers drowning was lost in the political furore during the 2001 federal election campaign.
"I think this SIEV X story is one of the great tragedies of modern maritime occurrences and it's a story that hasn't been told," he said

[more] (excerpt from Tragedy haunts music, by Cosima Marriner, Sydney Morning Herald, October 10/11 2009)

Not only has that story not been told, it hasn't even been properly investigated. If it were then I suspect that several senior Liberal Party politicians, including Howard himself, would be severely embarrassed, perhaps culpable. They, like Rudd's Labor government now, invoked the politics of fear, with little apparent regard for the human cost.

In appealing for Indonesia's help in order to set up his so-called "Indonesia Solution", Rudd has no doubt [a] bargained away the Australian Federal Police investigation into the deaths of the Balibo Five in 1975, and [b] sold off the legitimate aspirations of indigenous people of West Papua, who these days need our help more than ever.

The Channel Nine program 60 Minutes screens at 7.30pm on Sundays. Tonight there's a report on Balibo by Liam Bartlett, who writes about Australia's relationship with Indonesia (Justice long overdue for murdered Balibo Five) in yesterday's Sunday Times in Perth:

... the clinical response from Australian politicians, elected by Australians to represent Australians, is to curl up into a small target, lest anyone make waves that could damage our``relationship'' with Indonesia.

Supposedly, this is the same "relationship" that allows us to donate hundreds of millions of dollars for tsunami relief, build modern hospital facilities and mobilise scores of rescue workers to their earthquake disaster zones. In return, we are not to be openly critical or demand any form of mutual respect. Nor are we to expect any special help in controlling people smugglers and the flow of illegal migrants from their borders to ours.

Most recently this "special relationship" required the payment of some $50 million to use Indonesia's decrepit detention centres. And even then, the Indonesians (were) happy to take the high moral ground.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa put on his happy face for the cameras and argued his country could not possibly consider using force to remove 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers from the Oceanic Viking because "it would breach international law".

Natalegawa really should be the Minister for Comedy. What his countrymen did 34 years ago was to break the most serious of international laws; the Geneva Convention. The execution of five civilians in cold blood demands action, and if Indonesia really wants a relationship it should do everything possible to bring the killers to justice.

There is no reason not to act. Yosfiah is now leader of an Indonesian political party and lives almost three hours from Jakarta. Da Silva lives in West Timor, not far from the border. These men are easy to find and the leaders, Suharto and Whitlam, who turned a blind eye, are long gone. It's time to put it right.

[more]


Tonight at 7.30pm on Channel 9!

* Now for something completely different: yesterday someone posted a video of someone playing a version for marimba of my piece White Knight & Beaver, for one or two soloists & tape [1984], on a website called Blog 5. Check it out here.


* Friday October 30 2009:

"It was a major disappointment ..."

I've just seen a review - Australia Ensemble 30 years, dated 9 October 2009 - by Geoffrey Gartner of the recent concert by The Australia Ensemble at which a little piece of mine, Invention 1 (later re-named Intervention 1), was premiered along with several other tribute pieces by other Australian composers. An excerpt:

One of the most fruitful collaborations to emerge from the Australia Ensemble's work has been with the composer Martin Wesley-Smith. The Ensemble has just released a disc devoted to his music, Merry-Go-Round, on Tall Poppies. With this in mind, I was looking forward to his contribution, a duo for clarinet and cello entitled Invention I. It was a major disappointment. The cello part consisted of a verbatim account of a Minuet from Bach's Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 to which was added a simple clarinet obbligato. The result was nothing more than an academic counterpoint exercise.

[more]

There you go: can't win 'em all. I should say, in my defence, that the performers (clarinettist Catherine McCorkill and cellist Julian Smiles) loved it, as did many in the audience. Or so they told me afterwards. Some loved it partly because of its simplicity, as did some who love academic counterpoint exercises (and why not? I mean, what's wrong with academic counterpoint exercises??). Even I liked it (I don't always like my own stuff).

The article is in the excellent on-line magazine Resonate, published by The Australian Music Centre.


* Thursday October 29 2009:

Somehow, inexplicably, I allowed myself to get behind with my tax returns - am now frantically trying to get some done, looking for the myriad of little bits of paper that are essential, apparently, for an ordered and prosperous life. Needless to say, I detest the fact that as a society we put ourselves through a huge effort, every year, that is essentially unproductive, that ties up huge resources, encourages people to cheat, forces everyone to be an accountant, and penalises those whose minds don't work that way. We are all ruled by pieces of paper (in this day and age!) and the need to deal, every day, with that day's accumulation of them. We have a hugely-complicated tax system, and we have commercial television - no wonder people don't have time or energy to be creative, or to think about things too much, to foment revolution ...

* Am working on a piece for choir & cello called Songs of the Dispossessed, which is to be performed in Canberra in December by cellist David Pereira and Kangaroo Valley's Thirsty Night Singers, the group I sing in and direct. For details of the concert, click here (the David Pereira Cello Series 2009) and scroll to the bottom. The piece includes three songs, two previously composed: She Wore a Black Ribbon, about Australia's Stolen Generation, The Fighters Who Fell, about East Timor's struggle for independence, and an arrangement, with a new lyric by Peter Wesley-Smith, of the West Papuan national anthem Hai Tanahku Papua.

* News from the chook pen: Zorro has been broody of late, but three days in solitary confinement in a separate chook house seems to have put an end to such silliness. The others (Baker, Beaver, Chuck, Fluffy and Vera) are happily producing, every day, golden eggs that taste like eggs used to taste. They love the sorrel I planted for them, and the vast quantities that I pick and throw into their pen of what used to be called Wandering Jew (now "trad").

* Today I'm turning over a new leaf!


* Friday October 16 2009:

Have been busy of late on a number of projects and haven't had time to blog. But I couldn't let today go by without pointing out that it is the 34th anniversary of the murder of the Balibo Five in East Timor.

* Peter Cronau posted the following on facebook:

"The invasion of Timor was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Far East masquerading - as a last resort (all other justifications having failed to justify themselves) - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people."
With respect to Harold Pinter, Dec 7, 2005

He also wrote:

"It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless ... while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis."

I responded:

Guys like you are in what Rove called the reality-based community, which consists of people who believe that solutions emerge from their judicious study of discernible reality. But that's not the way the world really works anymore: "We're an empire now," he said, "And when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors.... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

That came from American journalist Ron Susskind (I think). See my piece doublethink, which has been recorded by The Song Company, to be released next year.


* Tuesday October 6 2009:

A telegram that Rob Wesley-Smith sent to the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Andrew Peacock, on Dec 1 1975 has recently been unearthed:

To see the whole telegram, click here. A subsequent telegram sent four days later said YOU GET LIMITLESS CONTEMPT IF YOU FAIL TO FOIL INDONESIAN INVASION EAST TIMOR. That's telling 'em! How different things would have been had our politicians listened to our activists and acted according not only to international law but also to principles of common sense and decency.

I talked once to an Australian ex-diplomat who said: "The problem is that no-one thought the Indonesian army would behave so badly in East Timor." This only ten years after Suharto and his henchmen murdered up to one million of their fellow countrymen.


* Sunday October 4 2009:

When I was in my early 20s, a vocal and instrumental trio I sang and played in recorded a children's LP - The Wesley Three presents, in story and song, "Banjo the Singing Rabbit" and "Mister Thwump" - that was released on the CBS label. This morning I received a letter from someone in Holland. Excerpts:

I hereby would like to inquire if there are any versions of the album Banjo, the singing rabbit and Mr Thwump available either on cd or, dare I say this, a downloadable version. (I am a believer of, that if versions are not available on tangible media such as cd's cassettes and so on, a downloading is legal ... somewhat) ...
I remember as a child listening to Banjo...and the feeling this gave me as the tale closed with people of age not being able to hear the singing of the rabbit. (I am amazed that I still remember this fore haven't heard the album since I was 10 years old) I still remember how much I loved the tunes of the tale and the tangible mystique the aborigines gave me.
Mr. Thwump gave me the same pleasure, albeit it in a more humorous fashion ...
a grand and hearty thank you for something wonderful ....

I'm not a great fan of what we did back then, but there seems to be quite a bit of interest in it. If I can persuade the Sony Corporation, which now owns the master tapes (if in fact the tapes still exist and are playable), to make them available to me then I will look at making copies for anyone interested.

* Italian flautist Emilio Galante has written an article on my piece Balibo, for flute & CD, for the Italian flute magazine FALAUT. An excerpt:

Martin Wesley-Smith viene ritenuto il decano dei musicisti elettronici australiani. Nato nel 1945 ad Adelaide, ha indirizzato i suoi prevalenti interessi alla ricerca audio-visiva e alla musica corale, oltre che a quella elettronica, insegnata fino al 2000 al Conservatorio di Sydney. Compositore politicamente impegnato, ha dedicato molti dei suoi lavori alle sofferenze di Timor Est. Fra questi Balibo, commissionato nel 1992 da Geoffrey Collins, il flautista australiano che ha ispirato molte nuove musiche per il nostro strumento.
Balibo Ź una cittadina ai confini fra Indonesia e Timor Est. Nel 1975 le truppe indonesiane, sollevando futili pretesti, superarono il confine e catturarono cinque giornalisti occidentali, li uccisero e bruciarono, per eliminare i testimoni dell'ingiustificata invasione.
Questa composizione racconta musicalmente le ultime ore dei giornalisti, asserragliati in una casa chiamata Australia, attendendo l'arrivo delle truppe indonesiane. Un senso di paura ed insieme di trepidazione, dell'orgoglio di poter dire al mondo ciė che accadde realmente a Timor est. Poi, la morte - della veritą. All'inizio del nastro vengono registrate le ultime parole trasmesse da uno di questi giornalisti, Greg Shackleton: "The emotion here last night was so strong that we, all three of us, felt that we should be able to reach out into the warm night air and touch it" ...

I do not, I'm afraid, have a URL for the article.

* According to its website, the National Trust's vision is "to live in a community which understands, values and enjoys its heritage; a natural, built and cultural heritage that creates our unique Australian character ..." While I appreciate that its work is mainly about our built heritage, it seems to me that it must also be concerned about other aspects of our cultural heritage, including Australian music. Yet it puts on concerts of excerpts from opera (e.g. a forthcoming concert in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales called "Opera at Golden Vale"), never, as far as I know, including any music by an Australian composer. European opera is part of our cultural heritage. So too is American rock'n'roll and many other musical imports. But the music that contributes most of all to "our unique Australian character" is the music created in Australia by our own composers and musicians ...


* Saturday October 3 2009:

RAIN! For a few months now, we've been wondering if we would ever see the stuff again. Our creek had stopped flowing, there was little or no feed for animals, and we were contemplating having to buy water in order to survive. But yesterday the heavens opened! Mind you, we need a lot more than we've had so far, but the forecast is for more over the next few days, so the situation is looking good. Of course, there's a downside: we can now expect a lot more weeds than we've had so far this Spring, and this morning I found, on my leg, the first leech I've seen for half a year or so ...

* Yesterday my brother Rob (known to many as, simply, Wes) had a birthday. One year ago he spent his birthday in the Intensive Care Unit of Royal Darwin Hospital, having suffered severe brain injuries in a fall. He was not expected, by some, to live, but he seems to have made a complete recovery. A chronicle of his progress in hospital, along with tributes from many admirers of his fight, since 1975, for the East Timorese people, can be read here.

Meanwhile, Rob's 93-year-old mother Sheila hangs on despite having suffered a heart attack a couple of months ago. Despite a weakened heart, and being largely bed-bound, she's generally fairly comfortable and is mostly enjoying life here in Kangaroo Valley. Her progress is being chronicled here. For six years during the 60s, Mum wrote scripts for and presented the Australian Broadcasting Commission's daily radio program Kindergarten of the Air, which went out to millions via Radio Australia.

* If you live in Canberra, the vocal group I sing in and direct, The Thirsty Night Singers, will be singing a new piece for choir and cello, by me, in a concert presented by cellist David Pereira. Performances will be at 7.30pm on Friday December 11, and 3pm Saturday December 12, at the Wesley Music Centre, 20-22 National Circuit, Forrest, and at 3pm Sunday December 13 at Yass Memorial Hall, Comur St, Yass, NSW. Other performers, apart from David himself, will be mezzo-soprano Christina Wilson, pianist Alan Hicks, and cellist James Larsen. The program will include Arvo Part's Fratres, Brahms' Songs, and a new version of Elena Kats-Chernin's Phoenix Story.


* Wednesday September 23 2009:

I got up early this morning and saw a red dawn:

Sydneysiders have woken to a red haze unlike anything seen before by residents or weather experts, as the sun struggles to pierce a thick blanket of dust cloaking the city this morning ... "The reason for the dust is we had some really strong winds in the inland areas of NSW and in South Australia for a sustained period yesterday," (Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jane Golding) said. "That's lifted a whole lot of dust off the ground because it's quite dry out there. Many of those areas are still drought affected." ... [more, from today's Sydney Morning Herald]

It was not just Kangaroo Valley, then, but Sydney (two hours north) and, probably, most of the rest of New South Wales. How many tonnes of topsoil have been permanently lost? The drought is affecting us even here, where over the past dozen years or so we've been in a "green drought" i.e. we've been getting a lot less rain than we used to get but enough to keep the trees alive and the grass green. Now we're seeing trees being stressed, some dying, animals desperate for food (lack of rain means that Spring growth hasn't started yet), our creek almost ceasing to flow (no-one can remember this ever happening before), and our dam lower than it's ever been, threatening the ten or so fat silver perch still managing to survive in its slimy green water. Today it's relatively cool, with fierce winds blowing the dust away (although our wooden deck still has a sticky red sheen over it). One shudders to think of these conditions in intense heat (we're going into what is predicted to be the worst bushfire season ever) ...

Click on Kate Geraghty's photo of the Sydney Opera House to see a larger version. You can just see the Bridge in the background.

Later: A Lewis Carroll fan, "Having lived through the apocalyptic dust storm that blew fine red dust all over Sydney", wrote: "I now know what the White Knight meant by the wind being as strong as soup!"


* Tuesday September 22 2009:

Last Saturday's Trek for Timor in Kangaroo Valley was a huge success, raising over AUD50K, we think, for a lighting project in Timor-Leste. Emailed comments from participants included the following:

"What a fabulous day yesterday, blessed by perfect weather and all resulting from so much hard work and brilliant organization on your part ... The participants were, without exception, overwhelmed with the organisation, attention to detail and good will and friendliness of all the volunteers ... I would like to congratulate you on a wonderful Trek 4 Timor. Our team had a great time and enjoyed every step of the walk! The organisation seemed to be faultless ... our team could concentrate on the walk, enjoy the beauty of the area, and support each other in finishing ... Please pass on our heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers and organisers - wonderful event and wonderful people! We certainly hope that you surpassed your fundraising target as you certainly deserve to ... You demonstrated what a tight, passionate, spirited and embracing community can do when they come together as one. If only more communities these days could do this, we would have such a nicer society to live in for the elderly, ourselves and our children ..."

To read more, click here.


* Friday September 18 2009:

I was sad to hear that Mary Travers, of folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary, died yesterday. I met her once, after a concert in Adelaide, South Australia, back when I also sang in a folk group, playing guitar/banjo. Aaaaah, the Sixties ... but they're not over yet: they will finally come to an end when Bob Dylan moves on.

* I acquired a coupla more chooks a coupla days ago: Baker and Beaver, to go with Fluffy, Zorro, Vera and Chuck. They are young Isa Browns, just about to start laying.

* Tomorrow the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership is holding its fund-raising Trek for Timor. See our new website for details.

* A while ago I arranged a song from East Timor - The Fighters Who Fell - for soprano Nicole Thomson and cellist Rachel Scott. They performed it last Saturday night:

... afterwards, there was that wonderful moment of silence when you know everyone was just in the moment, listening. And being affected ... A number of people said that they were really affected by it ...

The original lyric was a poem by Xanana Gusmao, translated from Portuguese by Agio Pereira with assistance from Rob Wesley-Smith. This was "poeticised" by Peter Wesley-Smith. I then set that to a traditional East Timorese melody, originally for a cappella choir then for soprano and singing cellist (Rachel has to play double stops as well as sing an alto part - not easy!)


* Sunday September 13 2009:

Yesterday I went to Sydney to [a] have a deferred Father's Day picnic lunch with my kids in Sydney Park, and [b] go to the Australia Ensemble concert (see below). Went well!

* From an article by Tom Hyland in this morning's The Age newspaper in Melbourne about the Australian Federal Police launching a formal investigation into the murders of five Australian-based journalists in Balibo, East Timor, in October 1975:

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said it was a backwards step that could damage relations between Jakarta and Canberra. Jakarta's response was echoed by respected, well-informed commentators in Australia, including Hugh White, a former senior Defence Department official. Australia's ''obsession'' with Balibo was, he said, a distraction that risked harming relations with modern, democratic Indonesia.

The Age's Michelle Grattan agreed, asking if it was wise to ''pick at'' a tragedy from decades ago. She pointed out Indonesia is now a democracy and argued: ''Our national interest won't be particularly served by going down a path that could put our two countries at odds.''

Implicit in this line of argument is that ''national interest'' should take precedence over the independent functions of police and courts. It assumes countries can't atone for events of the past while focusing on the future. And it implies Indonesian democracy is so fragile that powerful men accused of atrocities can't be called to account.

It condones impunity for committing murder.

And it prompts the question: if now is not a good time to subject war criminals to justice, when is?

The same old apologists for appalling behaviour by the Indonesian military are trotting out the same old appeasement line that encouraged atrocities in East Timor. Why should the TNI change its murderous behaviour in West Papua and elsewhere? Pillage, rape, torture and kill as much as you like, boys - we're certainly not going to object.


* Tuesday September 8 2009:

This Saturday the Australia Ensemble will perform a concert that includes a little piece of mine for clarinet (Catherine McCorkill) and cello (Julian Smiles), based on a Minuet in G minor from the first Cello Suite by Bach. Also on the program: music by Beethoven, Goossens and Takemitsu. My piece is one of a series of "miniatures by leading Australian composers", including Ross Edwards, Andrew Ford, Matthew Hindson, Elena Kats-Chernin, Raffaele Marcellino and Peter Sculthorpe, written in tribute to the ensemble's 30th birthday. Enquiries: 02 9385 4874.

* I've recently arranged a couple of songs from East Timor for singing cellist Rachel Scott and soprano Nicole Thomson. I'll shortly be arranging a song, Special Days, written by my late brother Jerry, for soprano and harp. Yesterday I wrote program notes for a CD that includes my piece White Knight & Beaver, performed by trombone virtuoso Michael Mulcahey.

* I received the following email today about the recent concert by Annalisa Kerrigan. Excerpts:

Listening to Annalisa's waiting on an angel CD just now, I realised that I haven't yet put a few words on cyber-paper about the concert on 30th ... We'd like Annalisa and her fabulous accompanists to know how much their music was appreciated, so if you feel Annalisa and Co would like some feedback, please forward this to them.

The CD is a lovely addition to our music collection. We've played it several times since the concert, and I'm sorry I didn't purchase Ireland' as well. Annalisa's voice is so beautiful, but as I'm sure you'll agree, nothing can beat a live performance. (We) loved everything about the concert, even though neither of us is of recent Irish lineage. Surely the original accompanists couldn't have surpassed the musicianship of (Michael Tyack) and (Lindsay Martin), who were superb. The warmth and vibrancy of all three musicians seemed to touch everyone in the audience.

Here is what (a friend) had to say: "It was probably the nicest concert I've been to in the Valley in a long time. It was absolutely wonderful. The only disappointment is that a lot of people didn't get to experience it. I thought the two people who accompanied Annalisa were brilliant."

And (another): "I haven't struck anyone who didn't enjoy it. I felt extremely happy afterwards. She's got a glorious voice - I'd rather listen to her than anyone else - Dame Joan eat your heart out! The fiddle player seemed to be accompanying her by watching her breathing. They [Michael and Lindsay] played their part to perfection. And doing that from behind, as the pianist did, was brilliant. I looked at the audience during the performance and everyone was smiling and wrapped. Anyone who wasn't there missed something extremely special. (I don't know if the problem was being on a Sunday.)"

* Today I've been preparing garden beds and planting beans. Tomorrow: sweet corn and sunflowers. I don't have a green thumb, but I think it a crime in this day and age to have access to arable land and not to exploit it, so I'm trying to make my own small contribution by producing organic fruit and vegetables. And eggs. My four chooks - Chuck, Fluffy, Vera and Zorro - are managing just two eggs per day, sometimes three. Not good enough. Any chook thinking she's gonna have a free ride has another think coming ...


* Tuesday September 1 2009:

Today was the first day of Spring. Well, the official first day - we've been in Spring for weeks now, much earlier than normal. This morning I almost stepped on a fat red-bellied black snake, reminding me that snakes have finished their hibernation and are out looking for food. There are bushfires down the coast and, at the same time - and surely this is most unusual - bushfires in the USA and elsewhere. We desperately need rain. Looks like we're in for a long hot summer, with grave risk of bushfire but not a lot of water to fight it with ...

* The Annalisa Kerrigan concert Ireland, that I put on last Sunday afternoon in Kangaroo Valley Hall, was pure joy! She's a wonderful performer, with an expressive face that reflects every word she sings. She has a huge range - of pitch, volume and expression - and superb control, able to sing high and soft, say, while maintaining smooth tone. I listened with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye: the smile from the sheer quality of what I was hearing, and the tear from the songs, many of which we used to sing around the piano when I was a kid. My grandparents on my father's side were Irish, so there were some deep connections being made. Lovely stuff. Annalisa's musicians - Michael Tyack, piano, and Lindsay Martin, fiddle - were excellent as both accompanists and soloists. An audience member wrote:

What a wonderful afternoon ... thought I should write now while the emotion runs high and I am full of good feeling ... I am Annalisa's biggest fan, I thought Irish music might be a bit daggy but NO, it was all lovely, especially Peggy Turner. Everyone I spoke to .... loved (that) best....thought I was going to cry! The unrelinquished love theme is indeed a heart breaker and this song rings so loud.....how bloody tragic....how bloody heart breaking! It was so poignant ... I know we didn't get many bums on seats but it was none the less so special, stuff the crowds, everyone in that room loved every minute, especially me, and all my friends.... I hope she enjoyed it as much as she appeared to. Her fellow musos were great... Loved em ...

From a friend and singer:

I am sorry I haven't emailed you sooner, as I had intended, to thank you for bringing Annalisa to KV last weekend for the Ireland concert.
I LOVED it. She has a lovely lovely voice - always beautiful, never shrill - and such a wonderful stage presence. The songs were fantastic - many good ones that I hadn't heard in years. I got goosebumps several times, which is always the best indicator of a moving performance in my opinion.
Many thanks to both of you.

I would love to bring Annalisa back to Kangaroo Valley, but [a] for some inexplicable reason we failed to attract a large enough audience to pay all the bills, [b] there are many other excellent musicians our audience would love, and [c] I'm actually trying to stop putting on concerts so that I can get on with other things ...

* Last week I presented my audio-visual piece Merry-Go-Round at a concert in Sydney by Charisma (Ros Dunlop, clarinets, David Miller, piano, and Julia Ryder, cello; guest artist: jazz pianist Judy Bailey). Went well.

* On Monday night I helped out at a performance of a collaborative multimedia performance event at SCEGGS Redlands, a secondary school in Sydney. Called The Tap is Dripping, it was a series of musical compositions exploring issues to do with water and the lack of it (drought, fire, flood, death, life, waterboarding etc etc), with images, dance etc. My role over the past few months has been "mentor". The co-ordinator - Struan Smith, a student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music when I taught there in the 70s - did a great job getting it all together. This event will, I hope, be the first of many.


* Monday August 24 2009:

In Sydney on Wednesday night the group Charisma is doing a concert at the Sound Lounge, Seymour Centre, that includes my audio-visual piece Merry-Go-Round, about Afghanistan. Charisma is Ros Dunlop, clarinets, David Miller, piano, and Julia Ryder, cello; guest artist: jazz pianist Judy Bailey, who is having a new work performed. Other works are by D'Rivera, Gould, Ingham, Lowenstern and Tajcevic. For bookings, call 02 9351 7940.

Merry-Go-Round, for clarinet, cello & computer [2002], is not one of my in-yer-face political pieces. It gently makes the blindingly-obvious point that Afghanistan has not been successfully invaded for 2000 years and it's unlikely that the current invasion - by the USA, with Australia, Britain etc - will be any more successful. But its main focus is on the people and their landscape, using photographs by George Gittoes.

* Last Friday night the little choir I sing in and direct - The Thirsty Night Singers - recorded the choral parts of my piece Seven Widows at the Gates of Sugamo, for seven singing female harpists and choir. Went well! The piece will be released next year on a SHE CD (Tall Poppies).

* At 2.30pm next Sunday (August 30) in Kangaroo Valley Hall, I'm putting on a concert featuring soprano Annalisa Kerrigan and her accompanists Michael Tyack, piano, and Lindsay Martin, fiddle with a program of Irish songs called Ireland; enquiries, tickets: call 02 4465 1299. Profits from this will go to The Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership, which supports projects in Timor-Leste.


* Friday August 21 2009:

The Robert Connolly film Balibo is attracting a lot of attention, not just to itself but also to the 1975 murders in Balibo, East Timor, of five journalists working for Australian news outlets. Those who wish to deflect criticism of the Australian and Indonesian governments, and of the Indonesian army, are taking the line that parts of the film are not historically accurate, implying that you can't believe what it says. Even those on the other side of the ideological fence, such as John Pilger, deplore the script not including "The Australian government's complicity in the journalists' murder" (see Pilger's article Cover-Up: A Film's Travesty of Omissions). I'm usually a great fan of Pilger, but not of his point of view here: any film has to work as a film if people are going to watch it - if by the inclusion of every facet of the story the film becomes boring and/or didactic, then no-one's interests are served, least of all Pilger's. Balibo does not deny Australian government complicity. It implies it, in fact, allowing the truth to come out in the discussion, both private and public, that inevitably follows a film like this. Pilger's attack on the film gives grist to the mill of those he normally attacks.

Molly, a respondent to Pilger's article in Information Clearing House, writes:

Much as I admire Pilger, his comment on the Balibo film seems counter-productive. Of course it's not a scrupulously accurate historical record - it's a drama, a movie, not a work of history, and the demands of the medium necessarily prevail if it is to have an impact with the public. The more didactic and direct a work of art the less effect it has (at least that seems generally true). The film has already generated a lot of discussion and informed a lot of people about events and political decisions which are now ancient history so far as the younger generation are concerned. It makes a clear contribution to the cause, the same cause to which Pilger has contributed so magnificently, and to bag it like this doesn't help.

Another respondent, XO, disagrees:

John Pilger is a man who speaks and writes with truth and honesty, he is not and never has been about covering anything up for the sake of "art", the "cause" or politics. This is why he is independent and he must remain so in order to be able to speak with reality and tell it how it really is. The world you seem to support Molly is one of deception, lies and "lets just pretend its not that bad". If someone is going to make a movie like Balibo then it is imperative that it does not hide the truth or else it just becomes like many other system movies ... fairytales ... Pilger has spoken the truth for the men that died and that is what counts here, not your "pleasing the public" BS. I am a "didactic" middle aged person who admires and likes the "didactics" of JP; give me honesty and there we have trust.

The world needs Pilger and others like him. It also needs people like Connolly and the film's star, co-producer and financial backer Anthony LaPaglia. Pilger's own films, excellent though they are, rarely get cinema releases or television showings, so his message gets to relatively few people. Balibo, on the other hand, will be shown in many parts of the world; thus its message, which is basically the same as Pilger's, is likely to have far greater reach and, potentially, effect.

See the discussion here. My contributions are under the pseudonym caterpillar.

* My new chamber music CD, Merry-Go-Round, is now available for purchase from the Tall Poppies Records website. The blurb there says:

A winning combination of Australia's best chamber ensemble and one of Australia's most appealing composers, Martin Wesley-Smith. His music comes from many concerns - political (especially East Timor and Afghanistan), literary (his fascination with Lewis Carroll) and personal (two of the pieces are dedicated to old friends - Don Banks and Prof Peter Platt). The music is tuneful, quirky, virtuosic for the players and always appealing for the listener. Snark-Hunting is one of the great pieces in Wesley-Smith's oeuvre, and in this new recording the piece shines. Timothy Constable is one of the current generation of hot young percussionists in Australia, and he gives a terrific performance in this piece.

The Australia Ensemble has been performing Wesley-Smith's music for many years, and it is with enormous pleasure that Tall Poppies has recorded and released this, the first ever CD devoted to his chamber music.

The recording was funded by the Australia Council.

Catalogue number: TP200


* Thursday August 20 2009:

At 10.12am today, The Australian Senate passed the following motion on West Papua, put up by Senator Sarah Hanson-Young of The Australian Greens:

The Senate calls on the Australian Government to urge the Indonesian Government to allow the International Red Cross full and unfettered access into West Papua.

Yo! Nothing will happen, of course. The Government will either ignore the motion, or it will say the equivalent of "Begging your pardon, but do you think that at some time down the track you might consider thinking about the possibility that you might perhaps allow someone from the International Red Cross a brief visit to West Papua?"


* Tuesday August 18 2009:

Composer Barry Conyngham has written a very warm appreciation of my first composition teacher, the late Peter Tahourdin, that was published in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald. The Australian Music Centre has published it on-line:

In an article entitled A Bramdean Childhood, Peter Tahourdin gives a charming account of growing up in England - an account that embodies his familiar style: concise, clear, rich, broad-ranging yet understated, and, above all, inviting further exploration and thought ... His quiet and diffident manner contrasted with the passion in his music. His reluctance to push himself forward or attract attention to himself obscured his desire to have his music heard. While he encouraged, and often genuinely enjoyed, the ambition - even brashness - of his Australian composer friends and students, his own style remained calm, sensitive and considerate ...

more


* Monday August 17 2009:

The silent movie shows I put on last Friday and Saturday nights with pianist Robert Constable were a great success. See here. Someone wrote about the Kangaroo Valley show: "(It) was a great success and Robert seems to be enjoying it still, how great is that? I enjoyed Neighbours just as much the second time, I had to tone down my laughter because I think I was louder than those around me ..." Another wrote: "I thought it all went swimmingly, and it was obviously greatly enjoyed by the audience. I'm still chuckling at the memory of the 3-storeys-high-people-towers lurching from side to side in the adjoining yards [in Neighbours], and at the girlfriend 'rowing' Buster away from the cannibals [in The Navigator], to mention just a few of the highlights ... Robert's skill continues to amaze me ..." Robert not only does an excellent job but he donates his services to the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership, a local group that sets up and sponsors assistance projects in East Timor. Over the past seven years he has helped us raise thousands of dollars for various projects, including sponsoring young people from Remexio to go to teachers' colleges, trade schools etc.

After the show on Saturday night, the choir I sing in and direct - The Thirsty Night Singers - sang a few numbers at a party. Emailed reactions included "Your choir sang very well, it is just getting better and better and you certainly have some solid fans ...", "I heard raves about the choir", and "Your choir were fantastic - I actually felt happy but sad thinking about what people miss out on when they don't hold onto a sense of community in ways like this ... it was really inspiring to see the people of KV coming together in song. Loved the Ink Spots number and the way everyone had a chance to 'shine'". We'll never be a great group, but we all enjoy it a lot and, yes, we are improving, bit by bit. We're soon going to be adding choral parts to the recording of my piece Seven Widows at the Gates of Sugamo, for seven singing female harpists and choir.

* I've sold all the discounted copies of the Merry-Go-Round CD of my chamber music that I had. I may have some more in a while - watch this space.

* This afternoon I noticed that a rosella (a parrot) had somehow got into our new chook yard and was flying around unable to find its way out. I had something urgent to do, so I did that then went back to try to release it. I saw a big bird of prey - possibly a brown falcon - standing on the ground next to the yard looking hungrily, so I thought, at the chooks. But it soon transpired that the rosella, in trying to escape, had got itself caught in the netting, attracting the falcon, which flew down for a feast. By the time I arrived, the falcon had killed the hapless rosella through the netting and eaten its head.

Talking of chooks, the other day I bought two more, giving us four: our original two, Fluffy and Zorro, and, now, Vera and Chuck. They took a while to sort out their pecking order, resulting in Chuck losing a lot of her chest feathers (chooks can be quite vicious to each other), but they seem to have settled down now. I want to have, eventually, ten or a dozen of 'em and a rooster (Dave?) to keep them in line ...


* Monday August 10 2009:

I have a few pre-release copies of the new Australia Ensemble CD of some of my chamber music (Merry-Go-Round, Tall Poppies Records TP200) which I will sell, at a discounted price, by mail order, to the first few people who email me. Get in quick!

* My old Mum, Sheila, continues to defy her doctor's prognosis that her heart has "had it": she's well, comfortable, and starting to get around the house using her four-wheel walker, getting valuable exercise. I've set up a website that gives regular health updates - see www.wesley-smith.info/sheila.html.

* This weekend I'm putting on two silent movie showings featuring live piano-playing of Robert Constable:
The First Annual Kangaloon Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival, 7.30pm Fri Aug 14, Kangaloon Hall; enquiries, tickets: call 02 4888 2060, 4888 2352;
The Seventh Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival, 7.30pm Sat Aug 15, Kangaroo Valley Hall; enquiries, tickets: call 02 4465 1299.

At 2pm the following day (Sun Aug 16), percussionist Claire Edwardes gives a solo recital in the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre in Nowra, her program including pieces by Australian composers Gerry Brophy and Andrew Ford; enquiries: 4464 2245.

Two weekends later - at 2.30pm on Sunday August 30 in Kangaroo Valley Hall - I'm putting on soprano Annalisa Kerrigan with a program of Irish songs called Ireland; enquiries, tickets: call 02 4465 1299. Profits from this, and from the two Keaton film shows, will go to The Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership, which supports projects in Timor-Leste. For information about our fund-raising Trek for Timor on September 19, visit our new website here.

* Last week we were able, with the help of two WWOOFers, to finish building a large chook pen within our covered garden and to move in my two chooks, Fluffy and Zorro: contented chooks laying contented eggs! Next week, after the film shows, I plan to plant vegetables, strawberries, fruit trees, sunflowers etc (it's an early Spring here) and get more chooks.


* Monday August 3 2009:

Today would have been James Easton's 65th birthday, had he survived the motor neurone disease that took his life a few years ago. He was a friend and colleague of mine and an excellent and under-rated pianist, arranger, composer, and electronics technician. His legacy includes three talented children, including Madeleine, currently in Australia as guest Concertmaster of the Brandenburg Orchestra. James's death was a great loss to Australian music.


* Wednesday July 29 2009:

My Mum, Sheila Wesley-Smith, has not been well of late (see below). But she seems now to be making a full recovery! She dozed yesterday morning after a fairly sleepless night, had chicken soup for lunch, dozed again, got up to have some dinner in front of the fire, then slept all night till 8 o'clock this morning. She's looking and sounding well and is in good spirits, although she's choosing to stay in bed for a while (malingering, no doubt). Almost back to normal!

* If you live in Sydney, a date for your diary: 8pm Wednesday August 26, at the Sound Lounge, Seymour Centre: Charisma (Ros Dunlop, clarinets, and Julia Ryder, cello) plays my audio-visual piece about Afghanistan, Merry-Go-Round. Also on the program: a new work by Judy Bailey, who will also play piano, Preludio y Merengue by D'Rivera, Benny's Gig by Gould, Triple Concerto by Steve Ingham, Seven Balkan Dances by Tajcevic and Drift by Lowenstern. Tickets: $30, $20, $10 (includes supper); bookings: 02 9351 7940 (email). Pianist David Miller is also part of Charisma.

* Talking of Merry-Go-Round, I took delivery this morning of a pre-release copy of a new chamber music CD of that name that's about to be released by Tall Poppies Records (TP200). The performers are The Australia Ensemble (Geoffrey Collins, flute, Dimity Hall, violin, Catherine McCorkill, clarinet, Irina Morozova, viola, Ian Munro, piano, Dene Olding, violin, and Julian Smiles, cello) with guest artist Timothy Constable, percussion. Other pieces on this all-Wesley-Smith disk include db, for flute, clarinet, piano, cello & CD (1991), Snark-Hunting, for flute, percussion, piano & cello (1984), Oom Pah Pah, for flute & piano (1996), and two movements of fin/début - tick tock, in which Phyllis Rides Aristotle and pp (Farewell to the Hotel Turismo) - for flute, clarinet, piano & string quartet (2000). Watch this space for release and ordering details.

Later: I've been listening to it - some of it ain't bad! Brilliant playing, of course, as we expect from The Australia Ensemble, and quite a lot of music I'm more-or-less happy with. There's some that makes me cringe, though. Inevitable, I s'pose. Them's the breaks.

* Pat Mahony, a member of AWPA (The Australian West Papua Association), has a written a Letter to the Editor that may, or may not, be published in The Sydney Morning Herald:

Indonesia is the unfortunate subject of a lot of interest at the moment, with the bombings in Jakarta and the release of the movie Balibo. So the story of the shootings in the remote mining area of Timika, Papua, has been eclipsed, even though one of the many victims was an Australian. Government authorities, both here and there, know where the shooters came from, but neither wants to talk about it. Meanwhile police in Papua (almost all of whom are from other islands of Indonesia) go about arresting dozens of the usual suspects from among their known targets - OPM people guilty of heinous crimes like raising their own flag. They are then charged with complicity in these murders, even though the Indonesian Minister of Defence stated that the shootings were not the work of rebels.

The shootings are apparently an outcome of competition among security forces for the very lucrative work of "protection" of the Freeport mine. The military (TNI) lost the contract, and it has now gone to private security operators. So the TNI has the motive, the means (as shown by bullet fragments in the victims' bodies) and the form. The same situation applied to the deaths of two American teachers in the area in 2002. If it were not a cover-up, how would one explain that the bullets that killed Drew Grant had been dug out of his body? How long will we allow our government to continue its supine appeasement of the Indonesian military as it rapes and pillages one of our near neighbours?

Pat Mahony
July 29 2009

I've seen Balibo: not only is it a brilliantly-made film, but it's going to put yet more pressure on the Australian and Indonesian governments to provide justice for the relatives of the six newsmen murdered by Indonesian troops in their invasion of East Timor in 1975 (not that any amount of pressure has made any difference in the past ...)


* Tuesday July 28 2009:

I've just received sad news: composer Peter Tahourdin, my first composition teacher (at the University of Adelaide), has passed away. His daughter Julia wrote "It was all quite sudden and Peter did not suffer." Although we hadn't seen much of each other since the Adelaide days (we both moved away, but to different places), we re-connected quite recently, and I was planning to go to Melbourne to sit down with him, open a bottle of something we both liked, and talk about the old days and everything that had happened since, and about music - his, mine, and everyone else's. As I've learnt before, but have to re-learn, when you think of doing something like that you should immediately go do it ...

Originally English, Peter was a conservative composer whose music was elegant and finely-crafted. In the late 60s he took himself off to the University of Toronto to study electronic music. He then came back and established Australia's first electronic music course, opening up, for me, a world that I could never have accessed had I stayed with acoustic instruments. I will be forever grateful to him for the opportunities and encouragement he gave me as a young composer. I now look forward to catching up with the pieces of his that I don't know.

For more information about Peter, who last year turned 80, click here.

* from an email from Liz Watson, of the Watson Piano Duo, about performing my piece Brother Jack:

Sarah and I will be performing our concert From Melbourne to Paris and Back on Friday September the 4th - in Paris!

Details are:

Studio Raspail
216, bd Raspail
75014 Paris (Métro Vavin/Raspail)
Places:15 euros, Tarif réduit:10 euros

Please find concert info attached, and feel free to inform any Parisian friends who may be interested ... we are looking forward to playing Brother Jack again - so much fun!!

My Parisian friends (where are you, Ged?) should consider themselves invited! Liz and Sarah form a marvellous duo that plays Brother Jack with precision and humour. See/hear their performance on YouTube here. Their blurb says: "Martin Wesley-Smith's witty take on the French children's song Frère Jacques, alias Brother Jack, is full of jazzy harmonies, quirky rhythms and subtle humour. It is a perfect illustration of the French-Australian theme of this exciting piano program ..." They may be contacted here.

* The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) in the US says "Don't Train Indonesia's Deadly Kopassus":

Sign the Petition

(please spread the word!)

Indonesia's Special Forces (Kopassus), more than any other in the Indonesian military, stands accused by the Indonesian people of some of the most egregious human rights violations.

The history of Kopassus human rights violations, its criminality and its unaccountability before Indonesian courts extends back decades and includes human rights and other crimes in East Timor, Aceh, West Papua and elsewhere. The crimes of Kopassus are not only in the past. A recently published Human Rights Watch report details ongoing Kopassus human right violations in West Papua.

In 2008, the Bush administration proposed to restart U.S. training of Kopassus. The State Department legal counsel reportedly ruled that the ban on training of military units with a history of involvement in human rights violations, known as the Leahy law, applies to Kopassus as a whole.

See the letter signed by more than 50 U.S. organizations opposing training for Kopassus. See here for additional background about the crimes of Kopassus.

Please sign the petition!

* Cellist Rachel Scott recently went to Timor-Leste with Ros Dunlop and others to put on some concerts, to work with kids in a school in Bessilau, and to attend the official opening by President José Ramos-Horta of Hadahur (a music school in Dili set up by the Mary MacKillop Mission to East Timor). Click here for a full report. Here are excerpts from Rachel's account:

The music programme in Bessilau was a huge success ... The teachers all joined in - and had as good a time as the children. A good example was the head teacher at the school. In the first lesson, he walked in, told children off, and prowled up the back. Within ten minutes, he was joining in, with a huge smile on his face. On day two, he was actively helping the children who were struggling. By day four, he was up the front, almost co-teaching with me - still with a huge smile on his face. By the teacher training day, he was the one checking that teachers knew what to do, and had driven around the district, picking up teachers who had gone home already. He is now a huge supporter of the programme.

The teachers are incredibly excited - and extremely grateful. They have agreed to teach the children as best as they can, and to also arrange performances for other schools. We have proved that music surpasses all language barriers, and cultural barriers ...

The children learnt very quickly - and this can only help other areas of their learning - problem solving, memory, gross and fine motor skill development. Another thing this programme has developed is the children's sense of self-esteem - something that is sadly lacking with these little people, and something I am so pleased to have increased. This alone is invaluable. I cannot truly express how important I believe this programme is - I shall talk about it until I am blue in the face, and would happily relate story after story to any policy maker or funding body. I believe this is some of the most valuable work I have ever done in my life ...

Inspirational!

On Saturday August 1, Rachel will be joined by soprano Nicole Thomson for a program called Bach in the Dark. Held in St James Church Crypt, King Street, Sydney, it will include inventions, airs and music inspired by JS Bach, Perfect Day by Lou Reed (arranged by Ben Sibson), and folk music from around the world. Also included: Don't Let Me Persuade You, or some such title (haven't decided yet) of the recent work Peter Wesley-Smith and I wrote for soprano & cello. Bookings essential - venue has limited seating. Call 02 9943 2077 to reserve your ticket (and to find out what time it starts).


* Monday July 27 2009:

As I reported before, we took Mum - Sheila - to hospital on Saturday morning with heart problems. She hadn't been well for a few days, suffering from breathlessness and a persistent cough. The staff in the Emergency Department at Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital brought her heart rate down from 170 to normal, performed various tests which indicated that she'd had some form of heart attack, and sent her to the cardiac room of Medical Ward A. That evening she was moved into the Intensive Care Unit, for observation. Next morning (yesterday) I had a call from a medical registrar saying that Mum's heart was starting to shut down, and asked what degree of resuscitation did we want should her heart stop altogether. Yesterday morning she was feeling crook, looking terrible, and talking of not wanting to live. We were preparing for the worst. Yesterday afternoon her three grandchildren and two greatgrandchildren came from Sydney to see her (basically to say goodbye), and she immediately perked up. Before long she was sitting up in bed gaily chatting and laughing and looking great. This morning we were told that apart from a pulmonary oedema, which they'd fixed, she was in good health, in good spirits, and was being discharged at 2pm today - amazing! What a difference 24 hours, and good care, and a loving family, have made ...


* Saturday July 25 2009:

I believe I had a first performance tonight! I'm not sure, 'cos I haven't heard that it definitely happened, and although it was broadcast with, I'm told, a live internet feed, we can't get Sydney community radio station 2MBS-FM down here in Kangaroo Valley, and our dial-up internet is far too slow to be able to receive music in real time. It was a short piece for soprano & cello, based on a movement from a Bach cello suite and performed by soprano Nicole Thomson and cellist Rachel Scott.

* For those who know my 93-y-o Mum, Sheila Wesley-Smith, she's currently in Shoalhaven District Hospital, having recently had problems with her heart. She went in this morning and will stay there for a day or two, possibly longer. When I left her this afternoon she was relatively relaxed and comfortable. We're all hoping, of course, that she'll soon be back to her usual chirpy self.


* Monday July 20 2009:

Caught a train to Sydney yesterday for a family function. Because of work on the track, passengers were provided with a bus between Dapto and Central, which was OK except that the bus driver got lost! He eventually found his way, but we arrived nearly half an hour late.

* Excerpts from a letter, dated July 8 2009, from Ms Lynette Wood, Assistant Secretary, Asia, Americas and Trade Branch, Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra, ACT, to Joe Collins of AWPA (Australia-West Papua Association):

Thank you for your letter of 20 June 2009 to the Prime Minister requesting the human rights situation in West Papua is raised at the Pacific islands Forum in August. I have been asked to reply on the Prime Minister's behalf.

As you are aware, the Australian government is committed to the development of Papua and West Papua as stable and prosperous provinces of the Republic of Indonesia, and believes this development can best be achieved through the implementation of the Special Autonomy Law and through respect for human rights. The Government respects Indonesia's territorial integrity, including its sovereignty over Papua and West Papua provinces, and supports Indonesian efforts to improve the political and socio-economic in the Papua provinces.

Consistent with this, Australia does not consider the Pacific Islands Forum an appropriate body to consider issues related to West Papua.

The Australian Government takes seriously reports of alleged human rights violations in West Papua and regularly takes opportunities to encourage the Indonesian government to ensure that the human rights of all Indonesians are respected and perpetrators of abuses are brought to justice. The Australian Embassy in Jakarta monitors developments in West Papua closely, including through regular visits to the region and contact with a range of government and non- government representatives.

Australia also encourages the Indonesian government to allow access to the Papua provinces by independent observers and organisations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and to foreign media representatives with appropriate visas. This is the best way to ensure transparency and that the progress the Yudhoyono government is making to address political, security and economic challenges in Papua and West Papua is better appreciated.

Through our aid program, Australia development assistance to the provinces of Papua and West Papua increased from $10.9 million in 2007-08 to an estimated $13 million in 2009-10, focused on health, HIV/AIDS prevention and local government capacity building.

We "regularly (take) opportunities to encourage the Indonesian government to ensure that the ... perpetrators of abuses are brought to justice"?? Not a single Indonesian army person has been found guilty of any crime associated with the massacres in East Timor between 1975 and 1999, and the army rapes, pillages and murders in West Papua with impunity. Seems that our encouragement hasn't been very effective yet, just as our encouragement of "the Indonesian government to allow access ... to foreign media representatives" has not, so far, produced any results. But we're hoping that if we are terribly nice, and whisper our concerns ever so softly, then one day Indonesia will open up and address the concerns of decent people everywhere.


* Monday July 13 2009:

Have just finished proofing the booklet for a new CD of my chamber music that will be released soon by Tall Poppies Records (TP200). Called Merry-Go-Round, it includes the 2002 piece by that name for clarinet, cello & CD, db, for flute, clarinet, piano, cello & CD (1991), Snark-Hunting, for flute, percussion, piano & cello (1984), Oom Pah Pah, for flute & piano (1996), and two movements of fin/début - tick tock, in which Phyllis Rides Aristotle and pp (Farewell to the Hotel Turismo) - for flute, clarinet, piano & string quartet (2000). The performers are The Australia Ensemble (Geoffrey Collins, flute, Dimity Hall, violin, Catherine McCorkill, clarinet, Irina Morozova, viola, Ian Munro, piano, Dene Olding, violin, and Julian Smiles, cello) with guest artist Timothy Constable, percussion.

* At the end of May I reported that a "large python (had) apparently decided to see out the winter sitting on top of our woodheap". It stayed there for several weeks, but has now moved to the front verandah, living in a tight coil under one of the chairs there and coming out every day when the sun hits the verandah, unravelling itself and luxuriating in the warmth of the sun. It's not in the least concerned about people walking by, nor by Flash, our dog, sniffing it. But our 93-y-o Mum, Sheila, is. In fact she's somewhat put out: she used to sit there herself, every day. She now, understandably, prefers to sit elsewhere.

* from an article by Anthony Deutsch titled Ambushes kill 2 near Freeport's Indonesian mine:

Weekend ambushes blamed on separatist rebels killed two employees at the Indonesian mining complex of U.S. conglomerate Freeport, officials said Sunday, marking some of the worst violence in the restive Papua region in years ... Indonesian authorities blamed the violence on the Free Papua Movement, which has sought independence from the central government since the 1970s ... "The killing of a foreign worker in Papua will have bad implications," (national lawmaker Yorris Raweyai, chairman of the Papua council) said, calling for an independent investigation. "The enforcement of the security must be carried out seriously and professionally."

I have no idea who is responsible for the shootings, but I certainly don't accept, at face value, the version presented by "Indonesian authorities". Such incidents are typical of a protection racket, like the one the Indonesian army (the TNI) has been running at the mine for years: they could well have been designed to demonstrate to Freeport the need for yet more expensive "security". Note that the statement "The enforcement of the security must be carried out seriously and professionally" clears the way for even harsher repressive actions against local indigenous communities than they already suffer.

From an article by Padraic Murphy called I saw my mate, Drew Grant, shot to death: Lukan Biggs in today's Herald Sun, Melbourne:

A MELBOURNE man has told of the terrifying attack at a West Papua gold mine that left his hometown friend dead. Lukan Biggs was driving the car when rebels opened fire, killing Drew Grant, 29. Police said Mr Grant, who became a father nine weeks ago, was shot five times in the neck and chest from about 25m. Mr Biggs has told friends the rebels opened fire without warning on Saturday.

Note how easily the Herald Sun blames "the rebels" before any evidence has been presented that the persons responsible were from the OPM and not from the TNI. No doubt soon the Lombok Treaty - the Agreement between Australia and the Republic of Indonesia on the Framework for Security Cooperation - will soon be invoked. Article 2, Principles, says:

"In their relations with one another, the Parties shall be guided by the following fundamental principles, consistent with the Charter of the United Nations ... 3. The Parties, consistent with their respective domestic laws and international obligations, shall not in any manner support or participate in activities by any person or entity which constitutes a threat to the stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of the other Party, including by those who seek to use its territory for encouraging or committing such activities, including separatism, in the territory of the other Party"

In other words, watch out. When it comes to appeasing Indonesian generals, we're serious. Despite rhetoric about respecting "domestic laws and international obligations", keeping Indonesia happy trumps the democratic rights of ordinary Australians.


* Sunday July 12 2009:

Yesterday's fatal shooting of a 29-year-old Victorian man, Drew Grant, in West Papua makes one suspect that, as in a similar situation in 2002, Indonesian police or military are behind the killing in order to criminalise the struggle in West Papua and to continue to paint the independence group OPM as terrorists. Mr Grant, an employee at US-based Freeport McMoRan's Freeport gold and copper mine in Timika, was apparently one of six people in a car that was attacked as they travelled on a road between Tembagapura and Timika at 5.30am yesterday morning. He was hit by five bullets. No-one else in the car was injured.

Nick Chesterfield writes:

Papuan activists have expressed sorrow and dismay at Mr Grant's death, and have cautioned against any kneejerk responses in blaming West Papuan people, in an area plagued by Indonesian police and military corruption and human rights abuses. They have called for the Australian Federal Police to independently and with the utmost transparency, investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr Grant's tragic death, and for overreaching political issues not to influence the outcome of an investigation.

Business as usual: just as recent research by Eben Kirksey exposed the Australian-USA-Indonesian cover-up of the 2002 Freeport killings, expect the same thing here. Australia will express regret but stress that we must move on. Meanwhile the TNI will remain free to lie and murder with impunity - as it did in East Timor, with Australian complicity.


* Thursday July 9 2009:

I was watching the First Ashes Test (cricket: Australia vs. England) this evening when the camera panned around the crowd to reveal ex-Prime Minister John Howard and his wife enjoying the game. Not only is Howard a war criminal, who invaded Iraq on the basis of lies, but he now travels the world, first class, with all expenses paid by the Australian tax-payer. Why do we let him get away with it?


* Wednesday July 8 2009:

For the past few weeks I've been helping my brother Rob Wesley-Smith build a large covered garden and chook run in the top paddock here. There's a lot more work to be done on it, and I'm yet to plant anything, but it's going to be a marvellous resource. Rob is now driving back to Darwin, a distance of c.4000 km.


* Monday July 6 2009:

Last Saturday's concert by The Idea of North was just about as good as it gets. They flawlessly performed imaginative and complex arrangements, with great panache and good humour. The sell-out crowd thrilled to everything they did, even to the more far-out jazz pieces.

Here's a couple of emailed comments I received:

... another great concert. It was fab wasn't it? Particularly enjoyed the 'World Music' section......in German! They are brilliant singers but great entertainers as well. Lovely humorous personalities....love Sally, very cute! Nice to see such a full hall ... I'm awed!!!

... a fantastic night on Saturday ... I loved it, as did my friends who came along and who don't usually go to such concerts. TION are SO good! I can't wait for Buster Keaton night now.

I'm now organising a couple of concerts for next month: The Seventh Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival with pianist Robert Constable (7.30pm Sat Aug 15) amd Ireland with soprano Annalisa Kerrigan accompanied by pianist Dean Sky-Lucas and fiddler Clare O'Meara (2.30pm Sun Aug 30). More about these later ...


* Saturday July 4 2009:

Have been busy of late organising tonight's concert by brilliant a cappella vocal jazz quartet The Idea of North, including getting a 30-voice choir together to sing one song with the group. All tickets have been sold, with profits going to The Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership, a local group supporting projects in East Timor.

* Apparently last night's performance in Sydney by Rachel Scott of my piece Uluru Song, for singing cellist, was as wonderful as her other recent performances of it.

* Yesterday I finished the first section of a piece for cello and soprano for Rachel's Bach in the Dark concert series in St James church in Sydney. The soprano will be Nicole Thomson.


* Thursday June 25 2009:

An enthusiastic audience member wrote to cellist David Pereira after his concert last weekend:

Martin Wesley-Smith's "Morning Star", based on "Hai Tanahku Papua", carried a poignancy that moved more sensitive souls to tears - myself included. Again, a knowledge of political circumstances, with an impending annihilation of West Papuan culture, lent strength to an emotional setting and the anguish of a people wronged. Martin's introduction generated expectation; your execution of his composition, brought realization.

I see that a new documentary movie about West Papua will be available for free download from Al Jazeera English on July 2 2009. Called Pride of Warriors, it "tells four personal stories of West Papuan's struggle for freedom. Based on footage smuggled to Australia (it) gives a new perspective on the human rights situation from areas in West Papua never seen on TV before ... All the people that appear in this film have risked persecution for speaking out. However they want their stories to be told ..."


* Sunday June 21 2009:

I was in Canberra last night to hear the premiere of my new piece Morning Star for cello & piano, which cellist David Pereira and pianist Marcela Fiorillo played again - beautifully - this afternoon. I now intend to work on it some more before self-publishing it.


* Thursday June 18 2009:

Last night I went to a preview in Sydney of the new Australian film Balibo, which is about the murder, in East Timor in 1975, of six Australian journalists by invading Indonesian troops. Directed by Robert Connolly and starring Anthony LaPaglia, it is a powerful film at every level: rivetting entertainment yet displaying the cynicism and brutality of Australia-USA-UK-Indonesia politics. Surely the Rudd government will now be forced to follow the recommendations of the Pinch coroner's report into the death of one of the Balibo newsmen. Surely someone's head must now roll for the cold-blooded and pre-meditated murder of six men whose only crime was to try to tell the world what was happening in East Timor. Since when in a democracy has it been a crime to try to preserve that democracy? Surely justice will now be done?


* Tuesday June 16 2009:

On June 6, the USA House of Representatives passed (235 votes to 187) the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011 with a section (1123) on West Papua. An excerpt:

7. Since (1969), the Papuans have suffered blatant human rights abuses including extrajudicial executions, imprisonment, torture, environmental degradation, natural resource exploitation and commercial dominance of immigrant communities and it is now estimated that more than 100,000 West Papuans and 200,000 East Timorese died as a direct result of Indonesian rule especially during the administrations of military dictators Sukarno and Suharto ...

8. Today, the violence continues. In its 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices the Department of State reports that Indonesia 'security force members murdered, tortured, raped, beat and arbitrarily detained civilians and members of separatist movements especially in Papua' ...

11. West Papuans are Melanesian and believed to be of African descent ...

The full text can be read here.

* Cellist David Pereira writes:

The third in the 2009 David Pereira Cello Series of recitals at Wesley Music Centre is scheduled for the middle of July. I can hardly wait. More on that in a few days ...

Meanwhile, my special colleague Marcela Fiorillo and I will play this weekend Saturday 7:30pm and Sunday 3pm at Wesley Music Room: From the Heart is a program that concludes with the Rachmaninov sonata for cello and piano. In the first half is the Grand Tango by Piazzolla, a rarely heard Piece by Chausson, the Rachmaninov Vocalise, four songs from Opus 10 by Strauss, and Marcela has found three short pieces by the amazing teacher/composer Nadia Boulanger that I've never heard before, let alone played. They too are lovely. But there is more. Martin Wesley-Smith has written a brand new work for the occasion. It is a set of wildy contrasted variations on a Papuan melody. He has kindly permitted me to interview him during the concert.

The Wesley Music Centre is in Canberra.


* Friday June 12 2009:

Someone who'd been at a recital by cellist David Pereira in Bendigo on Wednesday night wrote to him:

(Other people) said the performance was excellent. Your performances of the two Australian pieces were very much the most appreciated. The Carl Vine described as "mighty". Hotel Turismo described as "dramatic and moving".

Hotel Turismo is my piece Welcome to the Hotel Turismo. David has recorded both this and Carl's piece for Tall Poppies Records.


* Tuesday June 9 2009:

Finished today a piece for cello'n'piano called Morning Star - for a concert coming up in Canberra. It sets the beautiful national anthem of West Papua, Hai Tanahku Papua. I wrote it for cellist David Pereira, who is playing my piece Welcome to the Hotel Turismo in Bendigo tomorrow for Soul Food. Morning Star is really a work-in-progress which I intend to develop further after David, and pianist Marcela Fiorillo, have played this first version ...

* I was interested to read a recent article in The Australian newspaper about the new Head of VCAM (the Victorian College of the Arts and Music), Sharman Pretty. "Collaboration and 'inter-practice' learning is at the core of Pretty's vision for the new VCAM", writes Corrie Perkin. "I am astonished at how siloed this campus has been" says Ms Pretty. "The whole university is open to (our students), they can either shut the whole lot out and say, 'I don't want any of that, I just want to focus on my own little area', or they can embrace the whole lot and say excitedly 'How many of these things can I do?' The whole world is open to them. And that's very exciting."

I too am astonished! In the 90s, Ms Pretty was Head of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. She and I clashed on a number of issues, one bone of contention being the location and design of a new building for the Conservatorium. Her view, echoing that of a predecessor, John Hopkins, was that it be where the Con had always been - in Macquarie Street near the Sydney Opera House - but sunk underground. I opposed that view on a number of grounds, one of them being that as the Con was part of Sydney University, it should be on the university's main campus precisely so that our students and staff could rub shoulders with the wider university community, thus encouraging and facilitating "collaboration and 'inter-practice' learning". Once the decision had been made to stay in the city, I ventured to suggest that the design of the new building had to be informed by consideration of how music education might develop in the 21st century. I remember saying something to the effect of "What if we discover that a dance program, say, is a valuable music education tool? We need to design a flexible building that can easily accommodate such a program." Ms Pretty's response: "We teach music." In other words, we are a standard European-style classical music institution, so we need standard European-style classical music institution facilities ... It's a good thing that she's now at VCAM: if she were still at the Sydney Con, she would not be able to implement her new vision of "'inter-practice' learning" in an underground building in the middle of the city.

Needless to say, my forthcoming book about music and music education will deal with such issues in more detail.

I am also astonished, incidentally, that anyone could name an institution a "College of the Arts and Music", implying that music is not one of the arts!

* The local choir I sing in and direct, the Thirsty Night Singers, has recently been singing an SATB arrangement of a kids' song of Peter's and mine called Progress. If you wish, download and print the sheet music here (pdf, 76KB, 3 pages); listen to a MIDI file of it here.

* Tomorrow I'm getting together with Vera, Chuck and Dave.


* Thursday June 4 2009:

Today's date lives in infamy as the date of the massacre of thousands of Chinese civilians in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989:

It's the legacy of 4 June inside China that makes the memorialisation of the event in the outside world so important. But remembering 4 June is not just about China. Every government on the planet needs to be constantly reminded that slaughtering civilians, repressing your own people, and entrenching minority rule, can never, ever be justified.

That's from an article by Dan Edwards called Forgetting Tank Man Costs China Dearly, published in today's edition of newmatilda.com. To read more, click here.

My piece Brother Jack was reputed to be a protest piece about the Tiananmen Square massacre. But it ain't. The story is that the leader of a Swiss big band touring China sometime in the 90s found himself playing variations on the French song Frère Jacques during his solo. The audience erupted into wild applause, which puzzled him 'cos he didn't think his playing deserved such acclaim. He later discovered that the melody of Frère Jacques is the same as that of a Chinese folk song which was used by Tiananmen Square protesters to carry words sending up the government. It's amazing that just a few notes can carry such heavy humanitarian and political import. If my piece does then it surely would only do so amongst a few Chinese people who demonstrated - and survived - in Tiananmen Square twenty years ago, and it's most unlikely they will ever hear the piece.

A reminder: you can hear (and see) Sarah and Elizabeth Watson play Brother Jack on YouTube by clicking here.


* Tuesday June 2 2009:

from someone who recently received the recording of Peter's and my Lewis Carroll-inspired choral music theatre piece Boojum!:

... it is truly delightful ... The libretto & music are very good, I much prefer this to certain other takes on the same general subject. This is far superior to Batt's Snark ... I particularly enjoyed certain political comments scattered throughout. Usually I take my Carroll straight, without politics, but as an American citizen (though living in Canada) and as one who spent much of his life in the American South, I relished your pointed comments about the peculiar strictures upon freedom in the Land of the Free ... With forks & hope!

Boojum! is available here on a Vox Australis double CD for AUD27 (a bargain!) from the Australian Music Centre. Read the libretto here: Act One, Act Two.


* Saturday May 30 2009:

Next week, at 10.30pm on Saturday June 6, on ABC-FM will broadcast Hollis Taylor and the music of Australia's Pied Butcherbirds:

... on New Music Up Late we chat to violinist and composer Hollis Taylor about her work and her influences. We start out with some seriously intense fiddle-playing. Then we shift focus to the music of the Pied Butcherbirds, the major recent influence on Taylor's recent work. Then it's back to the fiddle and a few other instruments besides as we hear new works, which take this bird-music and re-present it for human performers!

Can't wait to hear it! I recently read Hollis's book-with-DVD POST IMPRESSIONS: A TRAVEL BOOK FOR TRAGIC INTELLECTUALS, which has contributions from, amongst others, Jon Rose. It's beautifully written: original, imaginative, quirky, honest, with distinctive character. One of the great travelogues! See Hollis's website for more information.

Jon, incidentally, has the Kronos Quartet playing his Music From 4 Fences on Friday June 5 at the Sydney Opera House. See here. Bookings: call (02) 9250 7777 or click here. Fascinating!

* If you fancy a 14km or 50km walk on Saturday 19th September through beautiful National Park and State Forest in Kangaroo Valley, raising money for projects in East Timor while you do so, visit www.kvrp.org.au. This is a fundraising initiative of the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership.


* Friday May 29 2009:

I was very happy with last Tuesday night's recording of Peter's and my 2005 piece doublethink (Roland Peelman and The Song Company at Trackdown Studios in Sydney; engineer: Bob Scott). At the moment it's in a hundred or more bits that need to be mixed, edited, cut together, and post-produced etc (using Pro Tools). It will end up not so much a concert piece recorded for CD but more a radio piece based on the concert version. It's a bleak though not un-entertaining look at the use of propaganda. From our program notes:

It's an Orwellian title and an Orwellian theme: the destruction of language and thus of our ability to detect the lies and propaganda of governments and economic oligarchs. Compare the contemplative life, in which one is free to make decisions based on full knowledge and understanding, with life based on fear, hysteria, manipulation, strident patriotism, the suppression of reasoned debate, sound bites as news, militarism, determined religiosity, Us versus Them, misleading euphemisms, deliberate falsehoods, blind faith in government, a cowed or supine or biased press, sheer nonsense, public relations operatives trained to dissemble ... we could go on. There are definite trends towards fascism, or at least McCarthyism, in the United States, and even in Australia we've witnessed elements of a hard-right political ascendancy which associates with the strategic objectives of the US and suppresses dissent at home: witness the dumbing down of universities, strangulation of the ABC, the "liberalisation" of media ownership laws, government secrecy and lies, the sending of Australian troops to an illegal and immoral war in Iraq and the pretence that the decision was not made well before parliament discussed it. We do not assert in doublethink that Australia is drifting towards fascism; we merely present a possible scenario, perhaps a familiar one, and leave it to the audience to draw any, or no, conclusions.

[more]

* Talking of Peter Wesley-Smith, the recent Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival had a session in which my daughter Olivia Wesley-Smith read some of his children's verse. Excerpts from a letter from a satisfied audience-member who loved, in particular, two of his books (The Hunting of the Snark (Second Expedition) and Foul Fowl, both published by the now-defunct Cherry Books):

The Second Expedition is wonderful stuff ... the reader is overjoyed by the wit, the imagination, and the up-to-date sheer gusto of your tale ... How can these two very special books not be on every child's bedside table?

Olivia's reading of your poems was, to us, one of the highlights of the festival. Thank you both for giving such pleasure, and laughter, to so many ...

* Talking of Belinda Webster, which I wasn't - but she is the Artistic Director of the afore-mentioned Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival - I was recently asked to write a testimonial in her favour. An excerpt from what I wrote:

When I first met Belinda Webster, she was selling an "Australian Music Diary" she'd had printed that included the birthdays of many Australian composers and musicians, including me (whenever I couldn't remember my twin brother's birthday, I'd look up mine and work it out from there). Even back then (this was the mid-80s), she had her finger in many musical pies, a plum one from my point of view being the community radio station 2MBS-FM, where she helped make Australian music de rigueur. Here she developed her skills as a recording engineer, skills that enabled her to establish, in 1991, her major achievement to date: Tall Poppies Records.

* Last night I conducted the first rehearsal of a local choir that's coming together to sing one song - Since You Went Away (words by black American writer James Weldon Johnson, music by Danish composer Otto Mortensen) - with brilliant a cappella jazz vocal quartet The Idea of North at their concert in Kangaroo Valley on Saturday July 4. We made a promising start on what is a most beautiful song.

On the way back home along Green Valley Road I came across Peter and Rob coming out: someone had run over and killed a female wombat, but inside her pouch was a baby, very much alive; Pete had rescued it and was taking it to a carer who will look after it for eighteen months or so before releasing it back into the bush.

Talking of wombats, a large python has apparently decided to see out the winter sitting on top of our woodheap. It's a beautiful animal, and not dangerous, especially now that winter has made it sleepy and lethargic. You wouldn't want to be bitten by one, however, so we have to exercise some care when getting wood for the fire ...

* about legs:

1. For those who know our old Mum Sheila, the ulcer on her leg - the only real health problem she's enduring, which is pretty good for someone in her ninety-fourth year - is showing steady signs of progress. She has regular visits from healer Teresa Keyser, who does lymph massage and applies honey, golden seal, aloe vera etc to the ulcer itself - that, combined with exercise (walking, operating the foot pedal of a spinning wheel, doing exercises, and so on) and resting with her leg elevated (it's a circulation problem), seems to be doing the job, albeit slowly.

2. For those who know our old dog Flash, he came home from hospital today after having had an operation to fix the cruciate ligament in one of his legs. He has a huge wound, sewn up with stitches, and a large plastic collar designed to stop him licking it. Needless to say, he's not a happy dog at the moment, but he will be a lot happier, in time, than he would've been had he not had the op.

* Have come across a comment on the recent Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival by JohnofOz:

"Our own composers" concert ... started well with Martin Wesley-Smith's Welcome to the Hotel Turismo, a "sit up and take notice" work, enjoyable as much for its still relevant political references as for a well judged melding of electronics and cello, played in David Pereira's typical relaxed style. The work deserves more airings, but then, where do you find cello recitals happening these days ...

Also this by Jon Rose, writing about music with socio-political intent:

Looking back, it's hard to think of much composed new music that's been played in Sydney over the last 35 years that has socio-political intent - Martin Wesley-Smith's audiovisual pieces in support of East Timor's struggle for independence and his collaboration with George Gittoes on the Wattamolla events, Greg Schiemer's Ashes of Sydney, and Alvin Curran's Maritime Rites are rare exceptions .... [more]

These articles come from The Australian Music Centre's ezine Resonate.


* Wednesday May 20 2009:

Top Australian vocal ensemble The Song Company (directed by Roland Peelman) is currently recording pieces and songs of mine for a projected all-Wesley-Smith double CD to be released in 2010. This week it's some a cappella conservation songs, including Billiards, Freddie the Fish, Nobody Cares Anymore and Who Stopped the Rain?. Next week it's doublethink, a piece commissioned by Song Co for our 2005 birthday concert.

* I'm currently getting a local choir together to sing a song with a cappella jazz vocal quartet The Idea of North at a concert TION is doing in Kangaroo Valley Hall on Sat July 4. For more information, click here.


* Friday May 15 2009:

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been arrested on trumped-up charges just two weeks before her house detention was due to expire. As Amnesty International asks, coincidence? Or a cynical pretext by the military junta to put Burma's leading democratic figure behind bars?

This strong and courageous person was charged for breaching the conditions of her 19-year house arrest because an uninvited American man - identified as Mr John Yettaw - swam across a lake to her home in Rangoon and stayed there in secrecy for two days. Apparently she's being held responsible for someone turning up at her door, uninvited, when she had no power to stop him ...

For more information, and to help Amnesty's campaign for justice in Burma, click here.


* Wednesday May 06 2009:

Music and politics: Pete Seeger, a man I have revered most of my life, has turned 90. At a birthday concert last Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, Arlo Guthrie said that Pete, like his father Woody,

"believed in the power of the people singing songs to change the world" ... Fifteen thousand people, of all ages, (okay, median age was probably 55) danced, clapped and sang along as Seeger did a soaring version of "Amazing Grace" and the saintly looking Joan Baez sang "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" ... Seeger looked all of 25--of strong backbone and spirit and moxie and with keen eyes which are the stronger for having seen the best, and the worst, of our country's history ... In so many ways, Pete is a repository of American history in himself. As Springsteen said, he has a "stubborn, nasty, defiant optimism," and he serves as "the stealth dagger through the heart of our country's illusions about itself."

(from Springsteen to Seeger: "You Outlasted the Bastards" by Katrina Vanden Heuvel in The Nation, Monday 04 May 2009)

* I've been organising concerts and events in order to raise funds for the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership, a group of locals that sponsors projects in East Timor. On July 4 2009 there's brilliant a cappella jazz vocal quartet The Idea of North. On August 15 there's The Seventh Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival, with pianist Robert Constable. And on Sunday August 30 2009, singer Annalisa Kerrigan, with pianist Dean Sky-Lucas and fiddler Clare O'Meara, will present a concert of Irish songs called Ireland.

* According to William Pfaff, the war in Afghanistan:

will ultimately rest - as in Iraq - upon an extremely doubtful long-term reliance on democracy development, of which we have heard much and seen little, since it assumes that a democratic society can be supplied by foreign military intervention. It is the recipe not for a long war, but for an unending one. The people of Afghanistan and Pakistan will in the end settle it, but only after the foreigners have gone home.

[more]

see, also, here (Patrick Coburn in counterpunch)


* Wednesday May 06 2009:

Anna Rose writes, in So Long Kevin, And Thanks For All The Fish (newmatilda.com, May 5 2009):

The news is pretty grim.

First up, (the Rudd government's proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) will be delayed until July 2011. Why? All the advice that the Government has received on the economics of climate change shows that the sooner we cut emissions, the less expensive it will be. Early action is much cheaper than waiting. This was a central tenet of the UK's Stern Review and of our own Garnaut Review. We need to move quickly, especially if we want to create new green jobs and new investments in clean tech and renewable energy in Australia.

Secondly, in 2011-2012 the carbon price will be set at $10 per ton and there will be an unlimited amount of permits. Full market trading won't begin until July 2012.

This is a joke - $10 a ton! ...

[more]

Rudd was elected to do the carbon reduction thing, but has broken his promise (due, he says, to the GFC). He's acting like, even looking like, John Howard more and more every day. Stand up, Kev! And get rid of Ms Wong, who is proving to be an even greater disappointment ...


* Tuesday May 05 2009:

Yesterday I received an email from a woman saying that she'd heard that my ex-brother-in-law Bill North was in jail and could she go visit him? Bit of a shock! I rang him at home: there he was, blissfully unaware that the long arm of the law had caught up with him at last ....

* In today's Sydney Morning Herald there's an enthusiastic review by Harriet Cunningham of the recent Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival. It doesn't appear to be on-line as yet; if/when it is I'll post it here (later: can't find it ...)


* Monday May 04 2009:

We're currently being plagued by a mystery caller who rings us several times per day, waits for one of us to pick up the phone, listens to our "hello", waits for a few seconds, then hangs up. Once merely annoying, it has now become distressing, for we - including our 93-y-o Mum - are having our sleep disturbed. If whoever is responsible is reading this blog, please understand that you are causing us great anguish. Please stop!

* Music and politics: today's Sydney Morning Herald has an article called Portraits of the composer, a man deeply concerned for the future by Yuko Narushima about composer Peter Sculthorpe:

Sculthorpe admitted to feeling frustrated by politicians, most recently over the issue of climate change. His new music would show humankind's propensity to "cannibalise" the very things crucial to its survival, he said.

"I chose to write about Easter Island as a metaphor for the world." ... [more]

This was published on the same day that Prime Minister Kevin "Howard-Lite" Rudd announced a one-year delay in implementation of Australia's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme ....


* Sunday May 03 2009:

Today was the final day of the second Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival, a biennial event whose Artistic Director is Belinda Webster. Judging from the comments I heard from audience members it was a great success, with its combination of great weather, visual art exhibitions, well-known writers reading from their poems and/or novels, and concerts of "fine music", all set in the beautiful environs of Kangaroo Valley, proving irresistible to audience members from near and far. I had two pieces played: Welcome to the Hotel Turismo, for singing cellist & CD [2000], and Psst, for string quartet, a two-page 1' 05" piece which I wrote earlier this year as an 80th birthday tribute to composer and friend Peter Sculthorpe. Cellist David Pereira gave a very powerful and emotional performance of Turismo, which he has recorded for Tall Poppies Records, while Psst was superbly played by the Goldner String Quartet along with other short pieces by a bunch of composers that included Anne Boyd, Barry Conyngham, Ross Edwards, Mary Finsterer, Andrew Ford, Matthew Hindson, May Howlett, Ian Munro and Rosalind Page.

It was remarkable that the festival program consisted almost entirely of contemporary Australian work (music, literature, sculpture, paintings etc), with hardly a classical work to be heard. Yet the almost-capacity audience went from one venue to the next with big smiles on their faces and unrestrained enthusiasm for what they were seeing and hearing. It helped, of course, that the festival was set in the spectacular natural beauty of Kangaroo Valley on a glorious sunny autumnal weekend. It helped, too, that the festival was almost flawlessly organised and that the quality of the musicians, actors etc was superb. For its audience, this festival hit the spot perfectly.

There were many highlights for me. One was a concert by The Band of Brothers (Leonard Grigoryan, guitar, Slava Grigoryan, guitar, James Tawadros, percussion, and Joseph Tawadros, oud): stunning virtuosity and impressive new compositions presented in a relaxed, informal way. Another was an outdoor performance by didge virtuoso William Barton. I've heard this amazing young musician many times before, but on this occasion I thought he reached new heights, especially when playing a duet with a lyrebird ...

* I'm appalled to see that Prime Minister Rudd is planning to send 400 more Australian troops to Afghanistan, even though he admits that it is highly likely that some of them will be killed there and that the USA and its allies are not winning the war. I'm yet to see a definition of what would constitute "victory" in a country that has been the graveyard of armies from Britain, Persia, the USSR, and many others. And what's the justification for the war, again? To go get bin Laden and his fellow jihadists? Right. While we're looking for them I s'pose we might as well bring democracy, Christianity, and pipelines for American oil companies. Seems fair ...


* Tuesday April 28 2009:

I've received a few comments from friends re the YouTube clip of my piece Brother Jack played by Sarah and Elizabeth Watson. Here are some of them:

Bravo!!!!! to you and to Sarah and Elizabeth Watson, I shall forward on to other pianist and composer friends

Good stuff; I liked it, especially the poly-rhythmic/metrical grooves.

congratulations on the YouTube post - I enjoyed hearing the piece.

very interesting and fun piece, and an excellent duo too...

What a deliciously quirky treat for a monday afternoon - far, far, FAR better than a dose of chocolate to buck one up. thanks so much for letting us know

GREAT Brother Jack on youtube - hooray! Well done! And please pass on my 'well done' to the piano babes....

This must be your idea of heaven: not one but two pretty young girls playing Wesley-Smith! Good on'em though for doing it and getting it to all of us this way. Its one of your terrific pieces that I had never heard.

Good stuff Martin. Thanks for that; good-looking sheilas

There you go: nice poly-rhythmic/metrical grooves, and better than a dose of chocolate, but most notice taken of the "good-looking sheilas" playing it. I think it's time to seek some new friends/music critics ....


* Sunday April 26 2009:

Our old Mum, Sheila, who lives with Peter and me in Kangaroo Valley, is 93 today! To her many admirers: she's well, generally, apart from an ulcer on her leg, the result of poor circulation. She's going out this morning for a birthday breakfast with some of her favourite local ladies then coming back here for a family lunch. During the 60s, Sheila was known to millions of people as the presenter of the ABC's Kindergarten of the Air, a radio program that was broadcast via Radio Australia to South-East Asia.

One of the family who's here today is her son Rob, or Wes, who drove from Darwin, a distance of about 4,000km. The story of his near-fatal fall last year and subsequent recovery is told here.

later: a good time was had by all at Sheila's birthday breakfast, birthday lunch and birthday dinner. Her greatgrandsons Oskar (12) and Bassy (8) stayed on for a couple of days, helping Pete'n'me eradicate a patch of moth vine, which is one of the weeds du jour threatening Kangaroo Valley bushland.


* Sunday April 19 2009:

Pianist Liz Watson has written to say that a recent Watson Duo performance of my Brother Jack is up on YouTube. You can watch it here.

This morning I picked grapes, helping out a neighbour harvest his Chambourcin crop from which he hopes to make a dessert wine. This afternoon I went to a concert in Nowra by The Joubert Singers, a choir from Hunters Hill in Sydney conducted by Rachelle Elliott and accompanied by pianist Jee Young. Good! I was very pleased to hear a bracket of contemporary Australian pieces by Katy Abbott, Paul Jarman, Stephen Leek and Matthew Orlovich. One generally doesn't at concerts like this. What a difference it would make, in all sorts of areas, if every choir in Australia did just one bracket of Australian songs per year!


* Friday April 17 2009:

Here's another piano piece, this one rather Chopinesque, available as a free download: Olya's Waltz (pdf, 3 pages, 100KB). Listen to it here (MIDI file). It's from a larger piece called On A. I. Petrof, which I composed in 1993. I'm preparing a new score of this.

Here's a kids' piano piece: Red Rag (pdf, two pages, 56KB).


* Wednesday April 15 2009:

Someone enquired recently about my piece Brother Jack, for piano (four hands). If anyone else would like a copy of the sheet music, feel free to download it here (24 pages, 416KB).

This piece received its first performance at the hands - four of 'em - of Australian Virtuosi (Michael Kieran Harvey and Bernadette Bolkus) in The Studio, Sydney Opera House, Fri March 12 1999. It received a second - also excellent - performance, by Daniel Herscovitch and Gerard Willems, in the Recital Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, on Thurs May 11 2000. The most recent performances, as far as I know, were by the piano duo Sarah and Elizabeth Watson on a Victorian tour last February.

Critic Jack Carmody wrote in the Sun-Herald (Sydney), March 21 1999:

Martin Wesley-Smith's Brother Jack (1994) is a different matter entirely. It is that true (and therefore welcome) rarity, a genuinely witty piece of music. Its essential material is ... 'Frere Jacques', which Wesley-Smith has used with an adroit intelligence: most importantly, there's nothing obvious about this music and I don't think I'm bluffing myself when I say his use of this tune has evoked a French elegance and lucidity in the writing.

After a forthright start it acquires an appealingly deliberate springiness: the tonal clarity of the new Australian pianos seemed perfect for this transparent music and the pianists delivered it with relish and flair.

* It seems that we might, one day, see at least a tiny bit of accountability for some of those who actively pursued the invasion of Iraq. See this:

Melbourne - The U.K. government's recent announcement that it will conduct an inquiry into Britain's involvement in Iraq has led to calls here for Australia to review its own participation in the controversial war.

Britain's foreign secretary David Miliband said in late March that the government would undertake a "comprehensive" inquiry into Britain's decision to join the 2003 United States-led invasion of the Middle Eastern nation.

The review will be carried out after July, by which time the majority of British troops will have been withdrawn from Iraq.

"We're very pleased that the British government has taken this decision and we would support the same thing happening in Australia," says Sue Wareham, president of Australia's Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW), a professional not-for-profit organisation which works for the promotion of peace and disarmament ....

That's from Australian Government Urged to Conduct Iraq War Probe, Saturday 11 April 2009, by Stephen de Tarczynski.

Some of those in the USA who allegedly gave the green light to the torture of Al Quaeda and Taliban prisoners might soon find themselves in a spot of bother:

April 14, 2009 "Daily Beast" -- Spanish prosecutors will seek criminal charges against Alberto Gonzales and five high-ranking Bush administration officials for sanctioning torture at Guantánamo.

Spanish prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five top associates over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo ... The six defendants-in addition to Gonzales, Federal Appeals Court Judge and former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, University of California law professor and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, former Defense Department general counsel and current Chevron lawyer William J. Haynes II, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff David Addington, and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith-are accused of having given the green light to the torture and mistreatment of prisoners held in U.S. detention in "the war on terror."

That, by Scott Horton, is from an article titled Chill the Champagne: The Bush Six to be Indicted.

One wonders, of course, why names such as Bush, Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz etc are so conspicuously absent from that list and why the Obama administration is not itself seeking justice. And if there's to be an inquiry into Australia's involvement in the invasion of Iraq (don't hold your breath), one wonders how John Howard, Alexander Downer, Philip Ruddock et al could, in a just world, escape prosecution for war crimes. I mean, kill in self-defence a vicious wife-beater and you'll go to jail. But illegally invade another country, causing the deaths of a million, say, innocent civilians, and you get a medal.

I've recently been organising several fundraising concerts and events for the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership, a local group that supports projects in Timor-Leste. They include:

1. a return concert by stunning a cappella jazz vocal quartet The Idea of North (7.30pm Sat July 4 2009, Kangaroo Valley Hall),

2. the Seventh Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival (7.30pm Sat Aug 15 2009, Kangaroo Valley Hall), and

3. Annalisa Kerrigan's Ireland (2.30pm Sun Aug 30 2009, Kangaroo Valley Hall).

left: tenor Nick Begbie of The Idea of North

* I was looking forward to an Australian tour this year of the Hong Kong Fringe Club's production of brother Peter Wesley-Smith's play Ho Chi Minh in Hong Kong, to which I contributed incidental music and audio-visual sequences. I've just heard that the tour has been cancelled, a victim of the GFC and the low Australian dollar. Bugger.


* Monday March 30 2009:

I've been tarting up a few songs for soprano & piano, for a friend. They include She Wore a Black Ribbon (pdf, 60.6KB, two pages, QuickTime, MIDI, about Australia's stolen generation), After the Storm (pdf, 86.2KB, four pages, QuickTime, MIDI), Afghan Lullaby in E minor (pdf, 48KB, two pages, MIDI) and Afghan Lullaby in D minor (pdf, 52KB, two pages, MIDI). Feel free to listen (QuickTime, MIDI) and/or download and print scores (pdf). I've also been working on something for soprano & cello (not finished yet).

* Yesterday I helped a neighbour pick his Chambourcin grapes. It was an abundant crop that promises to be an excellent vintage (I'll let you know in due course - watch this space!).


* Sunday March 22 2009:

Am currently working on new songs for a short musical called Noonday Gun, which is about Noel Coward's visit to Hong Kong. Libretto and lyrics by Peter Wesley-Smith. Finished one today called Britain Rules the World (it's set in the 1930s, before Britain's ruinous involvement in World War 2).

* The other day I came across, again, this statement by Ari Fleischer (Press Secretary in the first George W Bush administration), 7th September 2003:

"I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."

As a contributor to t r u t h o u t commented:

"The idiotic topsy-turvyness of this gem from Ari Fleischer is emblematic of the whole long list of lies & deceptions that attempted to excuse the inexcusable invasion of Iraq. Switching back & forth so often from this lie to that, he simply forgot which way was up!"

see William Rivers Pitt's article Remember, 20 March 2009

* British MP George Galloway has been banned from entering Canada because of his views on Afghanistan. He writes, in an article in The Guardian,

On the eve of (the fathers of the Taliban - "freedom fighters", paraded at US Republican and British Tory conferences) storming of Kabul I told Margaret Thatcher that she "had opened the gates to the barbarians" and that "a long, dark night would now descend upon the people of Afghanistan". With the same conviction, I say to the Canadian and other NATO governments today that your policy is equally a profound mistake ... The Afghans have never succumbed to foreign occupation ... Not even Alexander the Great succeeded ... Young Canadian soldiers are dying in significant numbers on Afghanistan's plains ...

More than half a century ago Paul Robeson, one of the greatest men who ever lived, was forbidden to enter Canada not by Ottawa but by Washington, which had taken away his passport. But he was still able to transfix a vast crowd of Vancouver's mill hands and miners with a 17-minute telephone concert, culminating in a rendition of The Ballad of Joe Hill ...

Paul Robeson remains a hero of mine, not only a superb singer but a man of conviction with the courage to stand up for justice and equality. We need musicians of his stature and commitment again.

Australia has now lost two soldiers in Afghanistan in the past week. How long before Prime Minister Rudd comes to his senses and withdraws Australian troops from an illegal war doomed to failure?


* Thursday March 19 2009:

Good article by one of my favourite journalists, Andre Vitchek:

Vitchek also covered Hilary Clinton's recent visit to Indonesia, writing that she "praised the democratization process in Indonesia, which is a model for Islam." But then she added:

"As I travel around the world over the next years, I will be saying to people: If you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity and women's rights can coexist, go to Indonesia."

That is, of course, exactly what the Indonesian political establishment, religious leaders, and the great majority of Indonesian people wanted to hear. But it couldn't be further from the truth.

In her remarks in Indonesia, Clinton made no mention of genocide in Papua. She neglected to speak of how political and militant Islam is openly defying the constitution of Indonesia and taking control of several parts of the country. And she was silent about how the business and political elite treats the impoverished, uneducated, and unrepresented majority of the people.

[more]

see this article by Clinton - The role of civil society in building a stronger, peaceful world - in The Jakarta Post, Wed 25 February 2009


* Wednesday March 18 2009:

I've been preparing some of my Songs for Kids for soprano Nicole Thomson and cellist Rachel Scott to perform in a concert for 500 kids on April 6. They include (click for free download) I'm Walking in the City (pdf, one page, 44KB) and Chuffa-Luffa Steam Train (pdf, one page, 40KB).

* Elizabeth Watson, who is one half of the piano duo Sarah and Elizabeth Watson, who recently performed my piece Brother Jack on a tour of Victoria, has written to say they "had a brilliant time performing Brother Jack! (and much positive feedback) ... thank you for writing such a great piece for four hands - we wish there were more like it!"

* The latest from Robert Fisk in The Independent (UK), March 14 2009, is The West Should Feel Shame Over its Collusion with Torturers:

... I have noted that our dear President Obama is allowing the illegal detention of prisoners at Bagram in Afghanistan to continue. But what else would you expect from a man whose secretary of state, Lady Hillary, far from going to the Palestinians whose homes were going to be destroyed by the Israelis in Jerusalem and denouncing this outrage, said merely that the home demolitions were "unhelpful".

So, in the long term, is torturing prisoners ... there are an awful lot of men in Western governments who should be in the dock. They won't be, of course. And oh yes - just in case you missed it - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just admitted that Canadian troops in Afghanistan are not going to win a military victory there. Just think. All that torture - for nothing.

[more]

Australia has just lost its ninth soldier in Afghanistan, with both sides of politics mouthing platitudes about him sacrificing his life defending freedom, democracy etc (I thought we were there to help the USA capture Osama bin Laden). Just think. All those deaths - for nothing.


* Friday March 13 2009:

Tom Allard writing in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

Papua tourists stranded at airport

FIVE Australian tourists caught in a legal limbo in West Papua after a six-month nightmare in custody are setting up camp at a local airport and refusing to leave until they are allowed to return home ... The five residents of far north Queensland took a joyride in September last year to Merauke in West Papua, a ruggedly beautiful Indonesian province where a sporadic separatist insurgency has led to tight military control ... [more]

While the case, and the convictions, are patently absurd, my main interest here is the description of West Papua as a "ruggedly beautiful Indonesian province where a sporadic separatist insurgency has led to tight military control". A sporadic separatist insurgency did not lead to tight military control. It was the other way 'round: tight military control, as well as human rights abuses (including rape, murder etc) and theft of natural resources, led to armed revolt. The indigenous people of West Papua had their country stolen from them in an act of Indonesian treachery that the United Nations refuses to confront ...


* Monday March 9 2009:

The situation in West Papua, where the Indonesian army rapes, tortures, kills, pillages etc with total impunity, or so it seems, gets worse and worse. See the article Health and human security in West Papua, by Susan J Rees, Remco van de Pas, Derrick Silove and Moses Kareth, published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA 2008; 189 (11/12): 641-643). Abstract:

* Recent publications have highlighted the impact of human rights violations, poverty and extraction of natural resources on the health status of the indigenous people of West Papua. However, the Australian medical literature has so far remained silent on this issue.

* Long-standing allegations of violence being perpetrated against Papuan civil society are supported by accounts given by West Papuan refugees involved in an Australian-based study.

* Health data collected by Médecins du Monde and other sources provide an insight into the poor health and lack of health care in the province, with high rates of infant mortality and morbidity, maternal mortality, and HIV/AIDS.

* Extraction of natural resources is causing major disruptions to the traditional livelihoods of indigenous Papuans, as a result of environmental degradation, mass displacement and an influx of migrant workers.

* Australian health professionals are urged to assist in remediating this dire situation, in keeping with our tradition of contributing to the health care of societies in our region.

My audio-visual piece Papua Merdeka, for bass clarinet & Macintosh computer, is concerned with these issues, highlighting allegations that in various ways the TNI (the Indonesian army) treats the indigenous people of West Papua as sub-human. It intentionally spreads HIV/AIDS, for example, and jails, for up to fifteen years, anyone who flies the Morning Star flag:

The Australian government has to do far more to pressure the Indonesian government to rein in the TNI. And it must itself rein in Australia's so-called "Jakarta lobby", an informal group of influential Australians largely responsible for Australia's policy of appeasement towards Indonesia.


* Friday March 6 2009:
Paddy Kenneally (right), 1916-2009, old soldier and East Timor activist, was buried this morning. According to Paul Cleary, "by virtue of his energy and longevity, Kenneally probably did more than any other person to remind Australia of its debt to the Timorese, especially after the Whitlam government gave Indonesia the green light to invade the territory in 1975.

"During the occupation Kenneally visited the territory four times, starting in 1990 when he was 76 and travelling extensively around the hills where he had fought. He returned three more times after the ballot on self-determination, (reporting) back to East Timor activists in Australia and to the veterans who remained involved ... Though he was a Labor man through and through, Kenneally had little time for (Gough) Whitlam because of his support for Indonesia's invasion."

(from Fervent Champion of Timorese by Paul Cleary, Fri March 5 2009, Sydney Morning Herald)

* My email application - Mail - did a melt-down the other day, so I ordered a system upgrade that contained a new version. In the meantime I used Webmail, which at some point and for some reason corrupted my mailbox on my ISP's server, meaning that I have lost most of the emails I received during the past fortnight or so. If you sent me something during that period, I would be grateful if you were to send it to me again. One exception: if you sent me a notice advising me that I had won yet another lottery, there's no need to send it again. In the previous month I won various prizes totalling c.$238 million, which is just about enough ...

* For those living in this area there's a Poetry Day - "a day of poetry, food, conversation and fun" - coming up featuring poets (and friends of mine) Nicola Bowrey and Harry Laing. According to the blurb:

Nicola and Harry have a unique way of generating excitement about poetry. Discover how to enter a poem's forcefield and be recharged by the potency of poetic language. Learn to trust your own responses to a poem.

Here's your chance to fall in love all over again with the soulful art of poetry.

To be held in a rainforest cottage near Berry on Saturday, 21st March, 2009, from 10.00am to 5.00pm - to be followed by a leisurely walk and dinner to relax and celebrate the day. Total cost is just $85 including lunch/dinner (BYO wine). For further information contact Ted or Caro on 4464 2330 or email Caro here.

I'm hoping to be there myself ...


* Wednesday March 4 2009:

As mentioned below, piano duo Elizabeth Watson and Sarah Watson have recently been touring Victoria with a program that included my Brother Jack for piano (four hands). I was delighted to receive the following comment from a friend who went to one of the gigs:

I went and heard Elizabeth Watson and Sarah Watson ... a few nights back in Camberwell. Your Brother Jack received a fantastic performance. The piece is so inventive and the ending is genuinely touching - well done!! I think it was the 5th time they had played it on their Victorian tour and it showed. I think you would have been pleased.

Written in Hong Kong in 1995, the piece has previously been played by Michael Kieran Harvey & Bernadette Bolkus and Danny Herscovitch & Gerard Willems.

* tomorrow:

I never met Ali, although I once met her mother, author Joanne van Os. But like many others I was very moved by the account of a tragic accident in Phuket that resulted in Ali suffering massive brain trauma that led to her death. Joanne was very concerned about the severe brain trauma suffered in September last year by my brother Rob (Wes), who has now largely recovered but who - were it not for the superb job done by medical staff in Nhulunbuy and Darwin - could so easily have suffered the same fate as Ali (see the roblog). My condolences to her family and friends.


* Sunday March 1 2009:

Have just heard that old soldier, "wonderful friend to Timor, and an unswerving expression of the Australian conscience", Paddy Kenneally, died this morning. Activist Susan Connolly has reminded us of the following extract from Michele Turner's book Telling: East Timor Personal Testimonies 1942-1992, University of NSW Press, 1992:

AND THERE I WAS, ALIVE BECAUSE OF THEM!

John (Paddy) Kenneally was a young private with the 2/2 Independent Company of the Australian Army, which was stranded in Timor by the Japanese invasion of 1942. He speaks of his anger at the subsequent betrayal of the East Timorese people:

We went to Timor and brought nothing but misery on those poor people. That is all they ever got out of helping us - misery.

And there I was, alive because of them! In 1942 we were just a handful of men, short of everything and fighting an all-conquering enemy. We were the only unit from the Philippines, Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies which didn't surrender and survived, and only because of their help. We were living off them. We arrived in Timor with plenty of ammunition but only one month's ration and we were there for twelve! They didn't sit down and say, 'The fight's between you and the Japanese. You paddle your own canoe.' If they hadn't given food to us we'd have had to take it, because we had no money at the start and we weren't going to starve, and once you start to grab, abuses creep in. This is true of every army in the world. It wouldn't have stopped at taking food, they'd be taking money and women and anything else going. Once we'd started those sort of relations we wouldn't have lasted a month because they'd have informed on us and you couldn't blame them.

The Government has never really acknowledged our debt to the Timorese from the War. Governments are pretty unreliable, you can't leave your conscience with them. In 1975 everyone behaved very badly. I thought it was an absolute disgrace. No one seemed to care about the Timorese. About all they got out of it was that we put a monument to them at a place called Dare, on the heights overlooking Dili.

During the dark times of East Timor's brutal subjugation by Indonesia, sweet good-natured Paddy was at every demo I attended, doing his bit to encourage our government to pressure Suharto to withdraw from the foreign policy disaster, and human rights abyss, that was East Timor. Thanks, Paddy, for everything you did. You will be sorely missed.


* Friday February 20 2009:

The Federal Government is threatening to impose internet censorship on all Australians:

Unbelievable! Not even the despicable J. Howard had the gall to attempt what Senator Conroy is apparently quite serious about.


* Thursday February 19 2009:

Last night the vocal group I sing in and direct, The Thirsty Night Singers, travelled to Robertson (a town in the Southern Highlands, near here) to meet and sing to/with members of a new local choir that's just getting underway. It was a delightful evening that might lead to future musical collaborations.

Australian piano duo Sarah (left) and Elizabeth Watson (right) will shortly embark on a tour of Victoria. The repertoire includes A Flight of Sunbirds by Ross Edwards, Get Well Rag by Elena Kats-Chernin, But I Want the Harmonica ... by Stuart Greenbaum, and my Brother Jack, about which their blurb says "The sisters' brilliant rendition of Poulenc's lively Sonata keeps the upbeat tempo, before Martin Wesley-Smith's witty take on the French children's song Frère Jacques, alias Brother Jack, gives way to jazzy harmonies and quirky rhythms."

The tour starts at Wesley of Warragui on February 21 at 8pm then goes to Traralgon Little Theatre (22nd at 2.30pm), Cardinia Cultural Centre (25th at 6pm) and Murray Conservatorium (27th) before finishing at Camberwell Uniting Church (28th at 8pm).

* While it appears that President Obama will not, for various reasons, prosecute members of the recently-departed Bush administration for the crimes they committed in office (see Obama's Justice: Reconciliation, Not Retribution, by Cynthia Boaz), the International Federation for East Timor (IFET) is still trying to get justice for the people of East Timor nearly ten years after Indonesian troops finally left in a final orgy of killing, raping, burning, stealing. kidnapping etc. Yesterday the organisation wrote to the President of the United Nation's Security Council:

Your Excellency

We are writing on behalf of organizations long concerned with the justice process in Timor-Leste.

As you meet this week to discuss renewing the UN mission in Timor-Leste, we urge you to look at the unfulfilled UN pledges concerning human rights and accountability for serious human rights crimes committed in Timor-Leste between 1975 and 1999.

We urge the Security Council to seriously examine the recommendations of the 2005 Commission of Experts (CoE) report and Chega! (Enough!), the final report of the Timor-Leste's Reception, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR), as guides to establishing a process that can contribute to genuine justice and reconciliation. Such a process will support democracy and accountability in both Indonesia and Timor-Leste ... [more (.pdf)]

The message is clear: rob a pharmacy and go to jail, but destroy a country, invading and occupying it illegally, and you're free to enjoy the spoils.


* Wednesday February 18 2009:

I've just read an excellent (as usual) article by John Pilger called Hollywood's New Censors (in Information Clearing House):

These are extraordinary times. Vicious colonial wars and political, economic and environmental corruption cry out for a place on the big screen. Yet, try to name one recent film that has dealt with these, honestly and powerfully, let alone satirically. Censorship by omission is virulent ... [more]

Censorship by omission, actual censorship, and state and corporate propaganda are all designed to twist truth and subvert democracy.

Monroe Reimers writes, in response to Pilger:

John, I admire you and your work greatly, it is you that makes me proud to call myself Australian. What you say about Hollywood is true but have you looked at the state subsidised theatre companies in Australia? These useless irrelevant behemoths do nothing but absorb and waste our precious Arts funding dollar ..."

I don't entirely agree with that, but I certainly think that state-subsidised theatre companies - and orchestras, opera companies and others - should be subjected to a lot more government and other scrutiny with regard to repertoire, self-censorship, propaganda, cultural relevance etc.


* Sunday February 15 2009:

The other day I came across a marvellous Hunting of the Snark blog, written with great erudition, and Carrollesque invention and lightness, by illustrator Mahendra Singh of Montreal, Quebec, who describes himself as an "illustrator busily fitting Lewis Carroll into a protosurrealist straitjacket with matching dada cufflinks." Amongst other things it contains a comprehensive collection of links to everything Carroll, including one to Peter's and my Boojum!.

Talking of Boojum!, I've received an enquiry about a possible new production ...


* Friday February 13 2009:

A koala, left, drinking from a water bottle supplied by a volunteer fire-fighter after the recent devastating fire-storms in Victoria. Click on the photo for a larger, more detailed view.

"Up to 100 people, about one-fifth of Marysville's population, may have died in the inferno that swept through the town, Victorian Premier John Brumby said on Wednesday." [more]

"Germaine Greer has joined the call for reform of Australia's fire management systems, arguing that it is 'useless looking for arsonists' as the blame for Victoria's bushfires lies with 'governments and administrators' ... Fire plays an essential role in the cyclical life of Australian forests ... for 60,000 years, Aboriginal people used fire to manage the environment, she said." [more]


* Thursday February 12 2009:

Have just read comments, about the situation in Gaza, by Brian Eno (see synthtopia, reprinted from The Daily Swarm):

An Experiment in Provocation

Stealing Gaza

It's a tragedy that the Israelis - a people who must understand better than almost anybody the horrors of oppression - are now acting as oppressors. As the great Jewish writer Primo Levi once remarked "Everybody has their Jews, and for the Israelis it's the Palestinians". By creating a middle Eastern version of the Warsaw ghetto they are recapitulating their own history as though they've forgotten it. And by trying to paint an equivalence between the Palestinians - with their homemade rockets and stone-throwing teenagers - and themselves - with one of the most sophisticated military machines in the world - they sacrifice all credibility.

The Israelis are a gifted and resourceful people who fully deserve the right to live in peace, but who seem intent on squandering every chance to allow that to happen. It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that this conflict serves the political and economic purposes of Israel so well that they have every interest in maintaining it. While there is fighting they can continue to build illegal settlements. While there is fighting they continue to receive huge quantities of military aid from the United States. And while there is fighting they can avoid looking candidly at themselves and the ruthlessness into which they are descending.

Gaza is now an experiment in provocation. Stuff one and a half million people into a tiny space, stifle their access to water, electricity, food and medical treatment, destroy their livelihoods, and humiliate them regularly ... and, surprise, surprise - they turn hostile. Now why would you want to make that experiment?

Because the hostility you provoke is the whole point. Now 'under attack' you can cast yourself as the victim, and call out the helicopter gunships and the F16 attack fighters and the heavy tanks and the guided missiles, and destroy yet more of the pathetic remains of infrastructure that the Palestinian state still has left. And then you can point to it as a hopeless case, unfit to govern itself, a terrorist state, a state with which you couldn't possibly reach an accommodation.

And then you can carry on with business as usual, quietly stealing their homeland.

Eno was speaking at a Stop Gaza Massacre protest in London on Sat 3 Jan 09.

Some of the responses on the site are interesting. Synthhead, for example, writes:

Artists that try to get you to think can be ponderous - but art that doesn't make you think is much more dangerous ... When a musician of Eno's significance in the world of electronic music makes a statement like this ... it forces the issue of whether you can consider his art without his politics.

There are the usual responses saying that art and politics don't mix, and there's the personal abuse one expects these days from people who can't be bothered trying to put together a coherent counter-argument (e.g. this from Dx09: "Who cares about Eno anyway? He has never been relevant but is clearly a has-been now who just speak out to get a few minutes in the spotlight.") I like this contribution from JollyRogered:

So when a bunch of B list pop celebs get together and make Do they Know it's Christmas, we applaud them for their philanthropy. But when a highly intelligent and articulate musician of Eno's stature has the balls to speak out against the slaughter of civilian children, folks start tutting about 'mixing music & politics'. Frankly, anyone who thinks that his/her art (or anyone else's, for that matter) is more important that the lives of innocent children, probably doesn't have a lot to offer the world ...

Eno has the same right as anyone else to express his personal view on any topic he likes. Other people are free to offer a contrary view. It amazes me that those who stridently support wars whose stated aim (when others have proved to be bogus) is to export "democracy" often have little real understanding of what democracy means.

* Tomorrow and Saturday I'll be going to the Kangaroo Valley Show, which is always a most enjoyable event. Displays of local agricultural produce compete for attention with log-chopping, dog-jumping, photography exhibits, side-shows etc. Unfortunately for the Show, but fortunately for the Valley, it's raining - as it often does at this time of the year (there are three local events that can be relied upon to bring rain: the Show, the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, and last weekend's Yarrawa Estate concert, which this year managed to sneak itself in one day before its usual deluge).


* Sunday February 8 2009:

Last night's concert at local (Kangaroo Valley) winery Yarrawa Estate went very well. It has been very hot here (a cool change has just arrived, bringing great relief) - setting up audio gear in the blazing sun when it's 40 degrees plus in the shade ain't fun. But as soon as the sun sank behind a hill, not long after 6pm, it became a very pleasant evening. The performers (Nicole Thomson, soprano, Jenny Duck-Chong, mezzo soprano, Yevkin Varbedian, piano, and Rachel Scott, cello) performed - superbly - in the open air to an enthusiastic audience of nearly 200 people. Their eclectic program ranged from Mozart and Purcell to Lou Reed and Eric Idle, with some Wesley-Smith thrown in for good measure. And there were some very good measures in there! Well, not for me to say - but I was very pleased with Peter's and my new piece, Eyeless in Gaza (for soprano, piano and cello), which was even more powerful in performance than I had imagined. Our Baghdad Baby Boy (soprano, piano and optional cello, from 2007) was sad, and awful, but it was very beautiful, too, with the beauty somehow intensifying the horror. To end the first half, Rachel played - and sang - my piece Uluru Song. Although I wrote it (in 1993) for her teacher, David Pereira, Rachel has made it her own, performing it literally hundreds of times in many parts of the world. I was delighted to hear her do it again. Plans are afoot to record it, with its companion piece Jerrinja Song and a third singing cellist piece that I plan to compose this year ...

The vocal group I sing in, and direct, The Thirsty Night Singers, also performed at the concert. We'll never be a great group, perhaps, but our two songs - When I Fall in Love and Old Coat - went down very well. I recently bought a couple of AKG C 1000 S microphones, which gave the group a nice boost. Sound was handled excellently by Ben Sibson, who'd also arranged, for soprano & cello, Lou Reed's song Perfect Day.

from a friend:

Congratulations on your substantial part in the Yarrawa Estate concert on Saturday. I haven't heard Uluru before, and it was sublime. I also liked the world premiere of Armless in Gaza ....the performance was impressive and I was deeply moved by the music and lyrics. I was also bowled over by the program notes on your website. If that was a concert program sold at the Opera House it would cost $10 and would contain a fraction of the information and endless ads! So, enough of the congratulations for now ... but keep up the composition, please.

from another friend:

Hi lads, I meant to say something nice to you both about having your songs sung on Sat night by all those talented performers. I am kind of over it now......nah just kidding. Congratulations, your songs sounded great and you must be very proud of them. Especially enjoyed Gaza and Baghdad Baby Boy, really haunting and beautiful. Most enjoyable night, hey how about the tree falling during Uluru .........whaoooo!!!! ... Cheers and well done to you both, especially you Martin on directing such a great little choir.

(A large tree fell in the forest close to where the concert was being held as Rachel was nearing the end of Uluru Song)

* The current bushfire situation in Victoria is horrific - special thoughts go out to all those who have lost family and friends. We here in Kangaroo Valley are vulnerable, particularly on a summer's day that is hot and windy, with low humidity, but so far we've escaped disaster even though we've just experienced the hottest period I've lived through since moving to New South Wales in 1974.


* Tuesday February 3 2009:

On the weekend I wrote a one-minute string quartet based on themes from Peter Sculthorpe's String Quartet No.11, Jabiru Dreaming. Then, yesterday, I collected harpist Tegan Peemoeller, of SHE, from Moss Vale station and took her to a private recording studio in Kangaroo Valley where she and I sang the roles of Ito and Tojo, respectively, for a Tall Poppies recording of my piece Seven Widows at the Gates of Sugamo. The harp parts of this piece, which is for seven singing harpists, were recorded in Canberra last April. Now I make no claims as a singer, but Tojo's voice must seem to come from beyond the grave, so once mine has been treated with lots of effects and eerie reverbs it might not sound too bad. Tegan, on the other hand, who is about to go to Italy for further harp study, has a wonderfully pure and sweet voice, and sings beautifully.

The final thing to add to the Sugamo recording is a choral part, which we will be doing shortly. Recording engineer: Dave Cafe; producer: Belinda Webster.

Click on the photo of Tegan, above, for a larger, more detailed shot taken during the session by Dave.

* If you're in Sydney on Saturday February 14, there's gonna be a fascinating event at Carriageworks in Eveleigh called Pursuit, by Jon Rose and Robin Fox. From the blurb:

Pursuit will take place on February 14th 2009 at The Performance Space Sydney and feature a veritable chamber orchestra of mobile, bicycle-powered acoustic musical instruments combined with the latest wireless transmission technology. Everything from a violin and a DJ's turntable to the proverbial kitchen sink is bolted onto bicycles and powered by pedal ... Wireless transmission boxes link instruments and cyclists to a central mixer and quadraphonic sound system, offering more rotational speeds, sounds in contrary motion, and other options such as pitch shift and live sampling techniques to the live instruments. Close up images of the instrument mechanics appear on video screens beside the four speakers. Through an integrated MAX/JITTER system, live sound and action transforms the images into a synchronous experience.

As the health of the planet gathers speed on its spiral descent, The Pursuit Project places itself in the nexus between art, sport and ecology. Pedal power will drive the acoustic and electronic musical instruments and generate mobile video. Pedal power will also generate most of the electricity upon which the performance's computers rely. In this respect Pursuit picks up the historical innovation introduced by Alfred Traeger in 1929 with his revolutionary outback bicycle generator designed for The Australian Flying Doctor Service, and points to a time in our future when electricity will not necessarily be taken for granted.

All the bicycles used in Pursuit are re-cycled.

Ha! Sounds amazing. Other artists involved include Jim Sosnin, Garth Paine, Rod Cooper, Paul Bryant and marvellous instrument-maker Harry Vatiliotis (who makes regular contributions, through his instrument repairs, to music in Timor-Leste). See Jon's excellent website about it here.


* Saturday January 31 2009:

I've recently created a website for a forthcoming concert at Yarrawa Estate, Kangaroo Valley (Sat 7th Feb). The idea is that instead of having a large printed program, with detailed notes on each piece, we have a bare-bones program backed up by a website that people can choose - or not - to study, at their leisure, before and/or after the concert, thus saving a lot of paper. I've done this for several concerts now (see, for example, here), with, as far one can tell, only a few audience members taking advantage of the facility. One lives in hope.

Check it out here.


* Thursday January 22 2009:

Scores and parts of two of my political songs - Eyeless in Gaza, for soprano, piano and cello [2009], and Baghdad Baby Boy, for soprano, piano and optional cello [2007] - are now available for free download.

* I see that newburycomics.com is selling my electronic music CD Wattamolla Red.


* Monday January 19 2009:

Have finished, more-or-less, a song called Eyeless in Gaza (lyric by Peter Wesley-Smith).


* Friday January 16 2009:

Have recently received a couple of emails from old friends of my late brother Jerry, who died in 2006:

... was just listening to an old cd and remembered when i heard it, a song jerry used to play almost as often as his own so special song ... stevie wonder's "too shy to say" ... both of course so often requested on that old keyboard he had. every time I listen I am reminded of Jerry so much ... maybe you will be too .... just a quick note ...

I had the great joy of working with Jerry on some musical projects back in the 70s ... Jerry's version of the Rodgers and Hart song, I Like To Recognise The Tune, remains one of my all-time favourite recordings.

I also had the pleasure of sharing the odd bottle of champagne with Jerry from time to time, not to mention some other substances. And it's funny what can stick in the memory. On one occasion, during a dinner together at a restaurant, Jerry told me that he thought I was an "old soul". I'm not religious or spiritual, but coming from someone whom I loved and admired I took it as a huge compliment!

Jerry's song Special Days remains one of my favourite songs. I arranged it for The Thirsty Night Singers (the little amateur choir I sing in and direct), but so far we haven't been able to do the song justice.


* Tuesday January 13 2009:

cartoon by Michael Leunig

see his article Little Picture, Big Picture, The Age, January 10 2009


* Sunday January 11 2009:

Music and Politics 1:

From an article about singer Reem Kelani in The Guardian by Mira Katbamna called Land and Freedom, November 1 2006:

For Kelani, preserving Palestinian culture is vital to the survival of Palestine. "I care about the land, but without Palestinian culture it's meaningless. Turning my nation into refugees has meant that we have lost, and continue to lose, our cultural heritage, but what is worse is Israeli cultural appropriation. We can't access many of the manuscripts of our poets and musicians because they are held by the Israeli government, and you need a permit to visit the archives."

[more]

You can shoot them, bomb them, poison them, run over them with bulldozers, whatever, but if you really want to defeat them then you must destroy, or deny them access to, their culture.

re destroying the people:

1. from UN Wants to Know If War Crimes Were Committed in Gaza, by Ahmed Abu Hamda and Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy Newspapers, Fri 09 January 2009:

Gaza City, Gaza Strip - The U.N. high commissioner for human rights Friday called for an investigation of possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza as local residents told more gruesome tales about Israeli troops neglecting wounded civilians and the killing of unarmed Palestinians ...

[more]

2. from Getting away with murder, by Julia Irwin, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 January 2009 ("You've got to hand it to the Israeli public relations flacks: only they could convince you that killing children was an act of self-defence"):

The Emperor Nero was upset that his prized lions were being distressed by Christians who ran away from them in the Colosseum. Nero ordered that at the next circus a Christian was to be buried up to his neck in the sand to make things easier for the lions. When the lions entered the ring, the biggest and meanest saw the hapless condemned, swaggered over and stood astride the Christian's head, roaring for approval from the crowd. At that moment, the Christian craned his neck and bit off the lion's testicles. The crowd was shocked. "Fight fair! Fight fair!" they yelled ...

[more]

Music and Politics 2:

I've recently added an optional cello part to my 2007 song Baghdad Baby Boy (lyric by Peter Wesley-Smith), to be performed in Kangaroo Valley on Feb 7. Now scored for soprano, piano & cello, the song is available for free download here (.pdf, seven pages, 156KB). Download the cello part here (.pdf, 60KB).

Baghdad Baby Boy was first performed at the 2007 Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival (which commissioned it) by soprano Yvonne Kenny.

I've also done a new version of our song We Thought We'd Lost You, Johnny, for soprano, mezzo soprano and piano, about the pain of parents discovering that their son is gay. Having the parents' part sung by two women raises the delicious possibility that Johnny is the son of lesbian parents. Download for free here (.pdf, 4 pages, 88KB).


* Tuesday January 6 2009:

Recent times have been dominated by the injuries sustained by my brother Rob Wesley-Smith in a fall on September 9. Physically he has completely recovered, but it will be a while before he's back to normal mentally - as one expects after serious brain injuries. Here's a recent message from one of his many friends in Timor-Leste:

My dear brother,

We knew what happened to you. Actually almost all Timorese pepole who know you heard about what happened. You know words spread very quick in Timor Leste. I got information from ETAN. Altough we did not come to visit, but our hearts were always there with you. The forces and enegies that came from so many people and your courage brought you back with us in Oz and in Timor-Leste. God Bless you! I hope to see you next time all recovered.

All the best for the Year 2009 ...

* I'm now working on material to contribute to a concert at Yarrawa Estate, in Kangaroo Valley, on February 7. The performers will be soprano Nicole Thomson, mezzo soprano Jenny Duck-Chong, pianist Yevkin Varbedian, cellist Rachel Scott, and the vocal group I sing in and direct, The Thirsty Night Singers. I recently arranged one of Peter's and my songs - Together - for the whole group.

* from today's Sydney Morning Herald:

Former prime minister John Howard will be honoured with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour that can be bestowed by a United States president, in recognition of his role in fighting terrorism and standing by the US as an ally.

The former British prime minister, Tony Blair, who provided troops for the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq, is also being honoured by US President George Bush, as is Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

"The President is honouring these leaders for their work to improve the lives of their citizens and for their efforts to promote democracy, human rights and peace abroad," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said as she announced the list on Monday Washington time.

"All three leaders have been staunch allies of the United States, particularly in combating terrorism.

"And their efforts to bring hope and freedom to people around the globe have made their nations, America and the world community a safer and more secure world," she said. Mr Howard has confirmed he will travel to Washington for the medal ceremony.

He told the ABC it was an honour to receive the award and he was looking forward to meeting Mr Bush again.

"It's an indication of the very close relationship between our two countries," he told News Radio. "I see this very much as a compliment to Australia."

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I find it amazing that this kind of stuff can be reported without any apparent embarrassment. How can it be a "compliment to Australia" for a discredited president to give a medal to a discredited prime minister, both of them war criminals responsible for the deaths of - who knows? - a million or more people?

* Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, Tues 30 December 2008:

How easy it is to snap off the history of the Palestinians, to delete the narrative of their tragedy, to avoid a grotesque irony about Gaza which - in any other conflict - journalists would be writing about in their first reports: that the original, legal owners of the Israeli land on which Hamas rockets are detonating live in Gaza.

That is why Gaza exists: because the Palestinians who lived in Ashkelon and the fields around it - Askalaan in Arabic - were dispossessed from their lands in 1948 when Israel was created and ended up on the beaches of Gaza. They - or their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren - are among the one and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into the cesspool of Gaza, 80 per cent of whose families once lived in what is now Israel. This, historically, is the real story: most of the people of Gaza don't come from Gaza.

But watching the news shows, you'd think that history began yesterday ...

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Good old Fisky, still telling it like it is despite a huge campaign to discredit him.

* From activist and friend Vacy Vlazna, who is doing a great job organising protests against the carnage in Gaza:

This video clip was taken with a mobile camera immediately after a terrorist Israeli air strike hit a busy market where kids with their mothers and fathers were searching for food to eat from one of the local markets early on Saturday 03, Jan 2009.

Stomach-churning but important raw footage. You can hear "Where are the world?"

http://sabbah.blip.tv/#1642223 Click here and here.

In 1991 or so I attended a talk by Noam Chomsky in San Diego, USA. He said that he's often approached by groups to give talks, sometimes up to ten years in advance. On one such occasion he was asked what his topic would be. "Er, er, let's say The Current Crisis in the Middle East", he said. Everyone laughed, thinking that surely in ten years' time a solution will have been found. Eighteen years later the situation is worse than it's ever been ...

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